Hong Kong & Changchun, China | July 11 - 23, 2016

The Yunfeng Cooperative organises smallholder farmers in Guojia Village in Jilin Province. The Cooperative practices "Natural Farming."

The Yunfeng Cooperative organises smallholder farmers in Guojia Village in Jilin Province. The Cooperative practices "Natural Farming."

In July 2016, twenty executives from nine different countries travelled to Changchun in China’s Jilin Province to conduct a field-project focused on community-based Natural Farming: a socially- and ecologically-sound alternative to industrial farming.

This project was the experiential component of Global Institute For Tomorrow (GIFT)'s flagship Global Leaders Programme (GLP). The GLP takes an experiential output-driven approach to executive learning by having global managers apply their leadership and problem-solving skills to produce business plans for local partner organizations. The programme exposes participants to the shifting socio-political and economic landscape across Asia and the need for new business models which can address the region’s most pressing challenges.

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"The GIFT programme provides the opportunity to hone leadership skills while working on a relevant, real world project. Working with a local farmers cooperative and partners in China, and a diverse team was a truly unique experience."

Yifang Li | Head of Food & Agriculture Campaign | Greenpeace (China)

"The GIFT programme is an eye-opening experience. Working in a culturally and professionally diverse team stressed the importance of empathy and effective communication."

Shien Ing Choy |  Assistant Vice President, Portfolio Manager - Fixed Income | KWAP (Malaysian Government Retirement Fund)



Jilin Province in northeastern China sits on one of the world’s largest nutrient-rich black soil zones. It is an important national processing and production base for cereals and meat. While agriculture is still one of Jilin’s largest industries, the province also has important petroleum and chemical sectors and its capital Changchun—also known as "China's Detroit"—has a significant automobile industry. 

Yunfeng Cooperative is located in Guojia Village, about 60km south of Changchun.

Smallholder farming could be an opportunity for sustainable agriculture: China has approximately 230 million smallholder farming households in countless villages and small towns around the country. 

The world's population is expected to exceed 9.1 billion by 2050, putting massive strain on the global food supply chain. Yet modern industrial farming is raising concerns around pollution, food quality and ecological damage. The need for a new approach to agriculture is real.


In both Hong Kong and China, GLP participants heard from respected leaders in business, civil society and media.

RONNIE CHANChairman of Hang Lung Group Limited, Co-President of the Asia Society

SANJEEV GANDHI, Member of the Board of Directors of BASF SE

ZOHER ABDOOLCARIM, Asia Editor for TIME International


In Changchun, participants were challenged to find a multi-faceted approach to food production—one that took into account ecological limits, produce quality, and rural livelihoods. 

Participants worked with the Yunfeng Cooperative, a pioneer of Natural Farming. Their produce is high-quality and chemical-free—and thus can achieve higher profit margins.

The cooperative started with a dozen members in 2009. It now comprises over three hundred members: two hundred producers and one hundred consumers.

Livestock are raised on fermentation beds made from locally-sourced materials, such as rice husks, sawdust, corn stalks and soil. Manure is digested directly into the fermentation bed, creating a zero-waste emission system with no odours—a major challenge yet to be solved by most industrial farming.

Participants visited the New Fangyuan feed processing company in Changchun, which processes feed for Yunfeng. The cooperative provides high-quality raw materials for the factory. 

To develop its network of consumer members, Yunfeng partnered with the Jilin Real Estate Chamber of Commerce and their “BOYO Multi-generational Centres.” These promote organic produce and eco-tourism amongst residential communities.


The GLP uses real-world field projects to hone the practical skills needed to manage diverse teams in unfamiliar situations. Through meetings with government, community and business leaders, and through frank and open discussions amongst themselves, participants learn to navigate conflicting and contradictory views to transform concepts and theories into realities on the ground.

Participants developed a plan for the Yunfeng Cooperative for a new Shihe Natural Farming Alliance that would promote Natural Farming to cooperatives and producers across China. 

Below are a few slides from the full business plan developed by participants.

Every Global Leaders Programme ends with a public forum, where participants present highlights from their business model to an audience of local community leaders, businessmen, government officials, representatives from NGOs and international agencies, and students.

For more information about the 2016 China Global Leaders Programme, or about the Global Leaders Programme in general, please write to us at