UNESCO promotes sustainable livelihood development in China's World Heritage sites

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, November 13, 2017
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Traveling nearly 2,000 kilometers from southwest China's Sichuan Province to Beijing, Ming Meng brought two frames of honeycomb and dozens of bottles of honey to Mercedes Me, a cafe and restaurant in the city's Sanlitun shopping area.

The products are not just exhibits and ingredients for the restaurant, but also the results of a World Heritage sustainable livelihood project in Ya'an, part of UNESCO's Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries World Heritage site.

In Ya'an, the majority of residents make a living by grazing livestock in mountainous areas, which returns low economic benefits, causes problems due to being a single source of income, and leads to environmental harm from over-grazing. However, the area's abundant wild flowers and plants created an opportunity for the project.

Based on study carried out since 2015, Ming, the head of a local non-governmental organization, chose to run the honey project, and his team began to teach local herders how to keep bees and make honey in April.

At first many residents resisted changes to their way of life and were afraid of the bees, but now more and more are choosing to take part, he said.

According to Ming, this year the value of the output for Ya'an honey is estimated to reach 300,000 yuan (about 45,200 U.S. dollars).

"UNESCO's World Heritage sustainable livelihood activity seeks to find new ways and mechanisms for communities in and around World Heritage sites to achieve heritage protection and economic growth, by promoting livelihoods based on the culture and biodiversity," said Marielza Oliveira, director of UNESCO's Beijing office.

As well as the mountain honey project in Ya'an, UNESCO is also promoting Sani embroidery from Shilin, Yunnan Province within the South China Karst World site, and the bamboo handicrafts from Chishui, Guizhou Province in the China Danxia site.

Those two projects are aimed at preserving traditional craftsmanship, empower women and encourage creative cultural industries.

Li Hongpeng, chairman of the Mercedes-Benz Star Fund Management Committee, said the sustainable livelihood project is helping residents overcome poverty in a more eco-friendly way to achieve harmonious development between people and nature.

According to Oliveira, UNESCO also hopes that data and experience accumulated from these pilot activities can serve as a foundation for finding more holistic approaches and deriving best practices that may be of reference for future work and for countries with similar contexts and needs.

The project is supported by UNESCO, the China Youth Development Foundation and Mercedes-Benz Star Fund.

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