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Catalyzing worker co-ops & the solidarity economy

How I Went From Village Teacher to Co-Op Leader

For much of the 1980s and ’90s, I worked as an elementary school teacher in my husband’s hometown. Zhaizi Village, which is located along the Yellow River at the junction of Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Henan provinces in north-central China, is in many respects an ordinary Chinese village. When I had free time, I helped my husband run his agricultural supplies store. This gave me plenty of opportunities to interact with other villagers, and I quickly realized that many of them lacked the technical knowledge to know which fertilizers paired best with which crops. In an effort to help, in 1998 I organized a free agricultural training course for local residents.

I soon began trying my hand at other training programs and social organizations, and in 1999, I quit my teaching job to devote myself to this work full time. In 2005, the villagers and I formed our first cooperatives. Almost all of them failed within two years, but in 2012 we tried again, this time with more success. Today, the Puhan Planting Professional Cooperative Federation includes over 3,800 families from three villages and two townships — Puzhou and Hanyang, or Puhan for short.

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