Travelling to Huizi and Wuding Counties in Yunnan
At the long-distance bus station of Kunming, the capital of the Southern China Province of Yunnan, urban travelers are mixed with minorities wearing traditional colored dresses. A visual sign that Yunnan is the province with the widest ethnic diversity in China, home to more than twenty recognized minorities, ranging from those speaking South East Asian languages such as Lao and Thai to the matriarchal societies among the Mosu and the Nan people; from the fluvial cultures around the upper Mekong river to the Naxi people whose old shamans of the Bon religion are the last living individuals able to read and interpret the pictograms of the Dongba manuscripts listed in the register of the UNESCO’s Memory of the World.
Looking outside the windows of the coach driving North of Kunming, it is clear that Yunnan is one of the China's most diverse provinces not only culturally and for its biodiversity, but also in terms of development. Different developmental phases seems to cohabitate and alternate themselves: from the brand new towers under constructions even in remote areas to traditional houses, from off-road to highways and back to off-road, from big industrial plants to enclave of entirely rural economies.
The Huize county is one of the “underdeveloped” counties targeted by the project “Improving Nutrition, Food Safety and Food Security for China’s Most Vulnerable Women and Children”. It is a comparatively “big” one, with about 1.3 million inhabitants, of which one million living in the county main town. It is relying on mining and on agriculture though, explains the deputy Director of the Huize Bureau of Radio, TV, Culture, Tourism and Sports Mr. Chen Daoling, in the past three years it has been repeatedly suffering droughts.
We met with the five media professionals who have taken part to the capacity building on reporting about food safety organized in the framework of the project and together with the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) and the Yunnan Radio TV & Film Bureau. The journalists explain that, after the training, they have found themselves covering food-safety issues such as a recent incident relating to contaminated salt. And it turned out then that the knowledge acquired was not only useful as background, but also because they felt it had increased their professional ability to verify, investigate, and double-check facts and sources. They said that the project was also instrumental in devoting more space and in-depth analysis on the issue of food safety, nutrition, and food security in locally produced current affairs programmes such as “Life of Citizens” and “Voice of Health.” Asked what they recommend for the future, they requested additional capacity building, especially on reporting issues related to sustainable development.
Visiting the Jinzhongzhen Yudong primary boarding school, one of the schools involved in the project, the director of the local Education Bureau Mr. Zhan Yonggui shows the detailed menu with ingredients and nutrition information on a whiteboard accessible both by kids and parents coming to pick up their kids at the end of the week. He explains that the Education Bureau is now giving an additional contribution of 3 RMB per lunch per capita to enrich the diet with eggs, milk and meat. It is Friday afternoon, school is just over and the kids are in the court waiting to meet their parents: half of them are from the city, while the other half are from rural areas as far as 30km away from the school.
The Wuding County instead is North West of Kunming, and it is accessible only through a secondary road. It is a comparatively “small” county with about 270,000 inhabitants, of which the great majority is living in the county main town. Despite the small size, it has great ethnic diversity, inhabited by eight different minorities. The newsroom of the local TV has one room for production and post-production and a small studio with a changeable background depending on the programme. Local reporters explained that they produce 20 minutes of news and educational content per day. Through the project implementation they feel that the quality and quantity of reporting on food safety and food security has increased, with about twenty news items per year. They are also observed that recently the news production is “more into the villages and about the real life of the citizens, and less about meetings.”
Besides the Communication and Information sector, two other sectors of UNESCO Office in Beijing have participated in the project implementation: Social and Human Sciences, and Education. UNESCO has joined other seven UN agencies and ten Chinese national agencies in the implementation of this project aiming at improving nutrition, food safety and food security in six of China’s poorest counties: Pan and Zheng’an (Guizhou Province); Huize and Wuding (Yunnan Province); Luonan and Zhen’an (Shaanxi Province). Activities by the UN Country Team in China have ranged from contributing to the legal framework for food safety, to the promotion of good practices in increasing food safety and nutrition in schools, hospitals, and increasing the quality standards of food producing industries