Upgrading Lifestyle for the Birds and People

Local community members of Naren use solar power-heated water to prepare food

With its unique grassland mountains and wetlands, Qinghai province provides the ideal shelter for many wildlife species. With its cold atmosphere and abundant water supply, the Naren wetland possesses rich biodiversity, attracting wildlife like black-neck cranes.


Aside from wildlife, 38 local Tibetan families also depend on the Naren wetland and its biodiversity for daily sustenance. “We used to use cattle manure as fuel source for heating water for showering, cooking and washing clothes in the winter,” said Zhaxi Jianmucuo, a local resident. However, in high altitude areas like Qinghai, it is very difficult to generate enough heat from manure to boil water, leading to diarrhea and other infectious diseases from dirty water.


Not only is cattle manure inefficient in producing enough fuel, burning it also risks the residents’ health and environment by emitting particulate matter (PM) into the air. To reduce pollution and environmental degradation in the Naren wetland and protect the habitat for black-neck cranes and residents, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the Conservation of Black-Neck Crane Habitat in Qinghai Naren Wetland Project in October 2013.


To help local residents change their living conditions and decrease their reliance on natural resources and fossil fuels, the project helped 23 local families build bathrooms and install solar-powered water heaters. “These heaters are more convenient,” said Zhaxi. “It takes less time to take a hot bath in the winter. Before it used to take a lot of cattle manure and so fuel to take just one shower. Now I can take many more showers than before.”


Not only have the new solar heaters delivered cleaner water, they have also resulted in extra income for the residents. TUV SUD, a German technical services organization, helped estimate the amount of carbon dioxide communities could reduce by adopting the solar-powered water heaters. They found that Zhaxi and others like him could potentially reduce 125 tons of carbon dioxide between 2014 and 2023. In May 2014, using the carbon trading system in Qinghai province, the community successfully sold 100 carbon credits at 100 RMB per ton to Singyes Solar Co. Ltd.


In addition, the project supported the establishment of a local patrol team to protect black-necked cranes. After being trained by the Qinghai Forestry Association, eight people were recruited into the team. From April to October, the team would patrol in the Naren wetland to ensure bird safety. “We learned a lot about the cranes, including their habits and living patterns so we could offer them better protection. Every day, we would take turns to the habitat, feeding the cranes with wheat and barley and protecting them from any outside harm,” said Zhaxi. 


Suonan Duojie, another patrol office said, “I feel proud and happy to be in this team. This job helps me better understand the birds. It is our duty to protect their natural habitat and to allow them to grow and thrive.”


Benefitting both the people and birds, since September 2014, community members were also organized to participate in tourism management study tours to promote eco-tourism. A trial green low-carbon tour of 30 visitors was carried out where visitors participated in patrolling the Naren wetland and gathered garbage thrown by passersby near the black-necked cranes habitat. This boosted bird safety and wetland protection and at the same time provided additional income opportunities to local herdsmen families.


“It is a great way for our community to grow. Green and eco-friendly tourism can provide great protection to wild animals as well as our wetland,” said Wan Maja, a village activist. 

 Villagers receiving training on protection of black-neck cranes
Under the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), this initiative was funded by the Small Grants Programme (SGP), a global mechanism that channels financial and technical support directly to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) for small-scale activities that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing people’s well-being and livelihoods. UNDP collaborated with local partners such as Qinghai Forestry association, Jiang Yuan Research Association and Yangling Environmental Protection Association. 

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