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Amidst the vast land of China, Zhaizi is hardly more than a nondescript village in Puzhou Town, Shanxi Province. However, it is where China’s first farmers’ association was born. Since 1998, its founder, Zheng Bing, has spent 16 years transforming the village into a model for an integrated cooperative of farmers. She is now director-general of Puhan (Puzhou-Hanyang) Rural Community.
Dance Team to Farmers’ Association
Zheng Bing may still be teaching in a local primary school if not for a quarrel with a villager. In 1998, Zheng and her husband were operating a fertilizer retail store in Zhaizi Village. One day, a villager came to buy chemical fertilizer. Learning that the villager intended to spend 800 yuan for chemicals for a less-than-half-acre field, Zheng advised him that 300 yuan of fertilizer was plenty. However, the villager wasn’t interested in Zheng’s opinion and a heated argument erupted.
Such glaring waste due to lack of knowledge inspired an idea: Why not invite agricultural experts to lecture to farmers? With the help of a chemical fertilizer producer, she invited a professor from Northwestern Agriculture University to give a lecture to villagers. The event attracted more than 400 farmers. Afterwards, many asked Zheng to organize further lectures. However, this would require time and energy investment she wasn’t sure she could make. So, Zheng quit her teaching job in 1999 to dedicate herself to organizing agricultural technology training.
Soon, one phenomenon caught Zheng’s attention: Housewives attending training classes still had little influence on decisions made at home. Zheng realized that it was because traditional gender concepts oppress female voices. How could one woman possibly hope to fix such a situation? Zheng recalled seeing women dancing in the streets of Wuhan during a visit to the city in 2001. She decided to teach local women to dance. The activity gradually changed local philosophies and promoted public awareness and female solidarity. Zheng began thinking that the farmers would also benefit from organized activities.
In 2004, Zheng Bing registered Yongji Puzhou Farmers’ Association with the civil affairs department, the first of its kind in China. In 2007, it was renamed Yongji Puzhou Fruit Association. Currently, it includes more than 40 cooperatives, with 25,000 members across 4,000 households in Puzhou and Hanyang towns. For this reason, Zheng Bing named it Puhan Rural Community.