“The Land gives me Rice, Rice gives me Life”

An exhibition of photos taken by rice farmers from Yunnan kick-off this Sunday to promote sustainable agriculture

Press release - 2006-07-17
Greenpeace China organised this Exhibition in China’s main urban centres to forge a link between urban consumers and the farmers who grow their food, showcasing the sustainable farming solutions and highlighting the threat of GE rice. We launched the Exhibition in Beijing in early June and then took it to Guangzhou at the end of June. We now bring the Exhibition to Hong Kong from 23rd to 26th July, to raise public awareness about supporting ecological and organic rice farming to protect the environment, farmer’s livelihoods and to promote food safety.

The joy of a golden harvest

Rice is the world's food staple. China's Yunnan province is one of the homelands of rice where thousands of varieties of rice have been farmed using traditional methods spanning thousands of years. The world's rice crop, our environment, farmer's livelihoods and consumer health are all threatened by China's imminent introduction of genetically engineered (GE) rice and the use of other unsustainable industrialised farming practices such as chemical pesticides.

In October 2004, Greenpeace China organised an 8-day "The Road of Rice - The Ecological Agriculture Tour" in Yunnan to celebrate "Biodiversity for Food Security," the theme of 2004's World Food Day. Yunnan province is one of the homelands of rice and still claims one of the richest diversities of rice in the world. Rice farming is intrinsically linked to people's everyday life and culture. The tour showcased the diverse and sustainable rice farming in the region. Greenpeace is against the commercialisation of GE rice and believes that the future of rice must take an ecological path. There is a common ecological and cultural heritage at stake, and there are sustainable solutions of rice farming we should take.

During the tour rice farmers were given Polaroid cameras. This was the first time most of the farmers ever held a camera in their hands, yet pictures taken were high standard. It was here that the Yunnan Rice Farmer's Photo project was born. Rice Farmers from different parts of Yunnan province and from different cultures, using traditional farming methods, learned over generations, were given cameras and invited to document one year in the life of their villages.

Famous Yunnan photographer, Mr.Geng yun sheng, was hired to oversee the photography and work closely with the photographer-farmers for the duration of the project. 5 traditional rice farmers were selected to document one year in the life of each of their 5 villages and 56 images were selected. The 5 farmer/photographers are: Bai Yun Xian, Li Ming Fu , Li Zhi Kan, Ma Mei Yan and Xiong Gui Zhi.

Biography of 5 Farmers

Ma Meiyan

"Growing rice for two seasons in a year is no easy job, but this is our life. The land feeds us and keeps us alive. I want to record it with the camera?"

28 years old; Dai ethnic minority; Great Areca Village, Gasa Town, Xinping County, Yunnan Province; Received elementary education. There are four people in her family, including her mother, her husband, her son and herself. Ma manages the rice cultivation business and the home most of the time. She most likes to photograph pretty Dai girls and people working together.

Li Mingfu

"I love taking photos, they are our voice to tell the people outside what we have seen?

57 years old; Aini (Hani) ethnic minority; Mengsong village, Jinghong County, Xishuangbanna; Finished high school. There are three generations in his family, including he and his wife, his son and daughter-in-law, and his grandson. He has always been a key researcher of agricultural technology at the grassroots level. His dream is to develop a new hybrid grain that is highly-productive and adaptable to the local climate.

Xiong Guizhi (Ah si mei)

"would like to use the camera to tell our stories to as many people as possible?"

41 years old; Pumi ethnic minority; Pantiange Town, Weixi County, Yunnan Province; Finished middle school. Her husband is not in good health so she is the family's main breadwinner. Ah si mei is often refused by villagers as they are not used to being photographed. Therefore, she had to hide herself somewhere to take the pictures. Ai si mei was the first person in her village to own a camera and she is well known.

Li Zikang

"Our life as farmers is quite hard. We sow in the spring and we harvest in the autumn, touching every seed and grain with our own hands, and then carry them on our own shoulders. This is our life and, with the camera I can record it as it is"

52 years old; Aini (Hani) ethnic minority; Mitian Village, Jiayin Town, Honghe County, Yunnan Province. He has four daughters, all of whom are working in Kunming. Li Zikang photographs children a lot. He loves children and people being together. After school he studied herbal medicine and also became a veterinarian. Now he is the village doctor as well as being the village mentor.

Bai Yunxian

"Being a farmer is very tiring. Through my photos I want to show people how hard it is to harvest every grain"

21 years old; Dai ethnic minority; Gasa Town, Xinping County, Yunnan Province. She finished primary school and is now learning how to do business with friends. But still she says she will never leave her homlenad.

"The Land gives me Rice, Rice gives me Life" Opening Ceremony

Date:23rd July, 2006 (Sunday)

Time:2:30pm-3:30pm

Venue:Foyer, Auditoria Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

(10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.)

"The Land gives me Rice, Rice gives me Life" Exhibition Tour

Date:23rd -26th July, 2006 (Sunday to Wednesday)

Time:Sunday 7:00pm-11:00pm, Monday to Wednesday 9:00am-11:00pm

Venue:Foyer, Auditoria Building, Hong Kong Cultural Centre

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