Through the sharing of founders and principles, Village Progress and Kunming’s Salvador’s Coffee House find their histories intertwined. Thus, a short introduction to the ideas behind Salvador’s will help to illuminate the beginnings of Village Progress.
Salvador’s four partners carried a three-fold philosophy into the development of the restaurant: 1: Offer its patrons the best possible quality of food, service and atmosphere 2: Succeed without sacrificing a commitment to environmental sustainability by striving to source locally when possible and improve energy efficiency 3: Offer its workers more than just an employment opportunity and strive to enrich the lives of its workers socially and experientially.
With the help of their employees, nineteen of whom come from Lincang Prefecture in Yunnan’s Southwest, the owners of Salvador’s have developed strong relationships with village leaders. In return, they have been given a unique perspective into the problems currently facing village life in Southwestern China. Lincang has seen very little of China’s economic progress: its per capita income is less than 10 percent of the average Chinese. As one of the poorest and least developed prefectures in the province, Lincang serves as a model for the problems that currently face rural Chinese.
Rural poverty has resulted in more and more youths leaving the countryside for the city in search of higher incomes. This rural-to-urban transition has resulted in the largest migration in human history. In 1990 and 2001, China’s urban population numbered 26 and 36 percent of its total population, respectively, and in January of 2012, the National Bureau of Statistics declared that China’s urban population finally exceeded that of rural areas. Because so many are leaving, farming communities now have to deal with an aging population and no youths left to help tend the land.
As governments invest more and more in growing cities, villages have witnessed much of their infrastructure go to ruin. Lack of educational development, inaccessible health care and shortsighted resource management in rural areas are the ultimate results of China’s modern urbanization. Moreover, beyond the scope of China, the country’s urbanization threatens international health and security as political and environmental pressures continue grow in conjunction with urbanization.
Village Progress came about as a way to reinvest Salvador's ideas and business model into the villages of its workers. To this end, VP has since set up small-scale agricultural, health and education initiatives in the Yunnan region with the goal of improving rural living standards. VP’s partner, Dalibars, helps make these initiatives possible by donating a portion of its profits to the organization.