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October 26, 2011

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Eco-Dudes buy cows for Shanxi farmer

DURING one of our weekly Dulwich College Junior School Eco-Dudes club sessions, one of our Year 6 students piped up to ask: "Why don't we buy a cow?" At first it seemed like just another idea, but some lucky coincidences actually helped us make it into a reality for a farmer in Shanxi Province.

During a visit to the Expat Show in Shanghai during September, I had tasted some delicious "green label" (Chinese label for organic) Gouda cheese made in Shanxi Province. Coincidentally, I had also just returned from a trip to the province so I was able to relate to the place. I had found out that the farmers who supply the Yellow Valley Cheese Co with milk needed help buy another one or two cows.

The Eco-Dudes decided to start the "Buy a Cow - Help a Farmer" initiative with the aim of providing funds for marginalized small-scale dairy farmers in Shanxi to move their family business from a state of financial vulnerability to one of economic self-sufficiency. We are now working with the Yellow Valley Farmhouse, which has been buying milk from these farmers for several years, turning that milk into Gouda cheese and paying them a fair-trade price for their milk.

For months, a variety of cheeses were sold on a colorful stand outside the school and funds were also made from a cheese raffle in the Junior School. Through the generous patronage of parents, staff and students, around 8,000 yuan (US$1,257) was generated from the sales of cheese and raffle tickets at the Junior School.

In addition, thanks to the huge boost from the Friends of Dulwich Winter Fair fund raising, with a 25,000-yuan donation, all the profits went toward buying the Shanxi farmers some good milkers.

Mr Guo, a farmer in Shanxi, received the money from the Friends of Dulwich and from the Dulwich College Shanghai Junior School charity to buy cows. Guo has recently bought three cows (one of them pregnant), which were imported from New Zealand, making it our very own Dulwich College herd! He has two cows that are ready to deliver two calves and two younger ones. When the two new cows have delivered their calves they will be moved to the milking station. Guo will raise the smaller cows and calves at his house. It will help him and his family continue to produce this delicious Chinese Gouda, and become a more prosperous farmer.

Thank you to all who helped change this farmer's prospects, at the grassroots level!

The lucky winners of our raffle were: Lucy Andrew from Year 3 and Matt Andrew from Year 4. They were flown to Shanxi to meet Marc de Ruiter, who owns Yellow Valley, and Mr Guo, the dairy farmer, and to have a day on the farm.

(Pia Kanaan is art teacher of Dulwich Junior School.)


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