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3 Reasons Why Social Media and Microfinance are Producing Agricultural and Environmental Impacts in China

by on August 3, 2010


China is facing some serious environmental issues, namely around access and availability to water resources.  The situation in China is very similar to that in Jordan, and it is very interesting to read about the water issues in China, having studied the same issue in Jordan just last week.  The more I read into the issue, the more the two situations begin to look more alike.  Both China and Jordan 1) have limited access to water, 2) inadvertently waste water resources as a result of bad agricultural practices, and 3.) have very little infrastructure to do anything about the issue.

As people often say, “you have to have money to make money”, well in this case it’s more of a “you have to have money to save money” type of situation.  Globally, the agricultural industry is known for limited credit availability, especially during harsh economic times.  Farmers and ranchers have trouble financing agricultural operations in the United States, and it is not any easier in rural China.

Based on limited financing alone, it is easy to understand the water crisis.  On a household-to-household, farm-to-farm level, people simply do not have the means to do anything about it.  Those “from the outside looking in” can argue all day that the solution lies in the hands of the Chinese citizens—and if they truly wanted change—they would do it.  However it is not that easy and the way I see it, if I was living off of $1 a day, I would be more concerned about putting food on the table rather than conservation “for the greater good”.  And I’m sure under that lens, anyone would agree.

Substantial change in agricultural and environmental practices in China will happen once farmers and ranchers have the necessary resources to make changes.  That is where Wokai, an online platform in China based on person-to-person microfinance, steps in to help farmers get capital with help of a global community (or a global guarantor you might say).

With a loan, farmers and ranchers can finally allocate resources to improve agricultural sustainability and maintain environmentally-friendly practices, while also growing their businesses.  Sounds like a great idea but question is, can Wokai be successful through the internet and social media marketing??  I argue yes, for the following three reasons.

Wokai is the true meaning of social networking, leveraging innovative tools and techniques.  The internet allows the campaign to have a worldwide reach, while the techniques successfully establish emotional and personable connections with the audience through experiential marketing.  Before making a donation, the donor knows where the money is going, to support what cause and for what reason.  Inherently, donors want the cause to be successful, thus they have more motivation to spread the word to their online networks, who then reach out to other networks, and so on—kind of like a “Facebook for Farmers” concept, as CNN noted.

Wokai operates on a continuum that encourages continued interaction with the cause through a “give, see, repeat, share” framework. 

Wokai’s messages are clean, clear, and fresh. The website encourages visitors to “browse the site and stay a while”.  The messages are easy to understand and it is clear how the program works.  In addition, the media section kept up-to-date and and truely solidifies credibility.  The campaign also uses a substantial amount of offline tactics to achieve overall program goals and objectives.  For example, in the past Woaki hosted a launch gala, and coming up, Wokai is hosting Frexh, a food/art/fashion/music event to raise money for the program.

In conclusion, the program is truly new and innovative.  What I specifically like about the program is that it doesn’t try to solve the entire problem, but rather focuses on making changes through small donations with the goal of substantial results over time.  The program is also great because it satisfies a true “social networking” concept through digital technology and clear messages, successfully connecting farmers and ranchers in rural China to various publics around the world, creating financial and emotional bonds for all involved parties.  Lastly, I strongly believe the concepts and strategies developed by Wokai can be replicated to similar programs in China and also worldwide.

For more information about Wokai, visit Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

From → China

  1. erinnd permalink

    Good post Tamara. I think all farmers and ranchers, need a program like Wokai, because as you noted in your post, they are the most in debt and need relief. I think it’s sad that farmers that feed us, make the some of the lowest salaries. Wokai seems like a great program that can really assist the people that need it most – the farmers.

  2. Great post Tamara, thanks a lot for the vote of confidence!

    – although we’d love to be credited with hosting Frexh we are only the recipients of their generosity. If anyone is in Shanghai this weekend make sure to check out the events that are being held all over town.

  3. Again this week you did a great job of building on what we learned last week, finding a very unique story that you could look at and presenting your point of view on why you think it works. This post was informative, unique and successfully took the weekly blogging lessons you have been learning and applied them to not only teach us all something new, but to give us your thinking on why this idea might work elsewhere in China and beyond. Great work. (5 + 1 for being first = 6)

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