Zhaojue County, situated in the heart of Liang Shan Prefecture, southern Sichuan, is the cradle of the Yi people in China. The county area of 2,699 sq. km. is very mountainous, with the highest peak altitude of 3,878 m. The county with 7 administrative districts has a population of 280,000, 97% of which are Yi. The majority of the people here are traditional farmers and their main livelihood is agriculture and raising livestock. Up until the 1950s, the Yi people of Liangshan had a slave-owning society and because of geographical difficulties, have for many generations been isolated from outside influence. This has severely affected the prefecture’s overall economic growth and development. “Yi” is their Han Chinese name, but the Yi prefer to call themselves Nosu (the Black People). The Yi people are warm, friendly and very hospitable.
MSI Professional Services, in partnership with the County government launched medical and community health projects in Zhaojue in 1996. The Youth Centre, started in 1999, is a joint venture of MSI and the local county government. It serves to reach out to young people, putting emphasis on holistic education. A livestock project also started in 1996, seeks to improve the economic livelihood of farmers. This project works closely with farming communities, bringing training in sustainable livestock production and pasture development.