“Mountain Futures 2018” will begin with a 2-day 1-night Field Trip to the Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, in central-southeast Yunnan Province. Located in China's far southwest, the Prefecture is best known for the Hani Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. Located across the Ailao Mountains and cascading down towards the Red River which gives the Prefecture its name (红河 Hóng Hé), the terraces – part of an integrated four-fold system comprising of forests, water supply, terraces and housing – form the cultural landscape of the Hani ethnic group. In addition, the Prefecture provides the historical model for a Southwest “Belt Road Initiative”: the Yunnan-Haiphong Railway, built by the French from 1904-1910, connected Yunnan’s natural and mineral resources with Indochinese products and European goods. These natural, cultural, geographic and historical conditions create an ideal platform for research, industry and training, and it is here where we hope to address global problems through mountain-based solutions.
Honghe County is located on the southern banks of the Red River. From the Provincial Capital, Kunming, it is a 4-hour drive south by bus.
In Honghe County one can observe an altitudinal distribution of climates, ranging from subtropical monsoon climates among the rice terraces to tropical forests deeper in the valley. Activities in Honghe County include:
Honghe Innovation Centre for Mountain Futures
Our second day (June 5) will begin with a Cornerstone Ceremony for the home of the Mountain Futures Initiative: the Honghe Innovation Center for Mountain Futures. Covering approximately 200 hectares, the Center will host projects such as the large-scale replication of environmental conditions in South American mountains; China-Africa cooperation on sustainable trade of plant resources through the transfer of African rare trees and grasslands; and development of under-forest economy in the integrated ecology of Southeast Asian tropical forests.
At the heart of the Honghe Innovation Center for Mountain Futures is the 20-hectare Center for Technological Innovations. The Center is designed to be a hub for a variety of projects which will eventually include a Mountain Futures Training Institute, a monitoring station for mountain dynamics, accommodations for researchers and students, ethno-botanical gardens, and an experimental nursery. The nursery will be used to implement recently-developed techniques to turn agricultural waste products into seedling substrate, and to test methods for large-scale, rapid seedling production which can be linked to ecological restoration, agroforestry systems and sustainable resource utilization.
Prior to the Cornerstone Ceremony, Field Trip participants will have an opportunity to learn about the scientific projects the Centre for Mountain Ecosystem Studies (CMES) has already initiated in Honghe County. As construction for the Mountain Futures site gets underway, these projects will form the basis for the future establishment of agroforestry systems and demonstrations of different methods for the sustainable use of bio-resources.
One such project investigates the impacts altitude, cultivation and management techniques have on different mango varieties and their quality, harvest and maturity. While researchers measure light intensity, carbon dioxide pressure and diurnal temperature difference at different altitudes, experimental plots test the effects of changing fertilization levels, adding legume cover, and intercropping with citrus, pepper, avocado and nuts. Similarly, CMES are carrying out research into fodder trees such as Calotropis and paper mulberry, focusing on inter-species interactions, ecological and economic efficacy, and slope-based vertical agroforestry. The goals of this research are to trial and optimize agroforestry systems in Honghe, and scale these optimizations out to other mountain regions.
The Honghe Innovation Center for Mountain Futures also hosts groundbreaking mycological research and production. Researchers from across Asia are involved in efforts to identify, domesticate and cultivate new types of fungi for food and medicine, while also investigating microbial communities and their impact on soil health and crop productivity. The potential of fungi to break down pollutants including plastics is another promising area of research.
Yisa Old Town
The Honghe Field Trip will also include a cultural visit to Yisa Old Town. In its heyday at the beginning of the 20th century, Yisa was the political, economic and cultural center of Honghe County. Horse caravan routes connected Yisa to Southeast Asia, allowed early out-migration of Chinese to other countries, and contributed to the town’s unique architecture: a mix of Chinese and European styles. The old town is both a pleasant place to relax and an ideal opportunity to learn about the international connections which once made Honghe a centre of trade – and could do so again.
Hani Rice Terraces
Before returning to Kunming participants on the Field Trip will visit the famous Hani Rice Terraces and their integrated four-fold system of forests, water supply, terraces and village houses. Participants can witness up-close the indigenous wisdom of mountain-based communities, and its impact on factors such as water and soil conservation, micro-climate management, sustainable resource use, and traditional beliefs and culture. Participants will also hear about the economic and social challenges facing local villages, and the potential for collaboration between farmers and the research community.
The Field Trip is open to all those attending the Mountain Futures Conference. We would highly recommend taking the opportunity if your schedule allows. The work now beginning in Honghe will address critical gaps in research, practical knowledge, training, and support for sustainable livelihoods. This Field Trip will serve as a comprehensive introduction to the myriad activities and opportunities in Honghe County, a chance to contribute ideas that could shape the future work of the Honghe Innovation Centre, and a way to introduce discussion topics that will remain relevant for the rest of the conference.