This organisation derives its name from that of its principal benefactor, Winthrop Rockefeller (1912-1973), one of six sons of the noted American businessman and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. Winthrop Rockefeller developed large farms in Arkansas, where he also served two terms as state Governor. On his death, part of his estate was bequeathed to create a centre that supports agricultural research and innovation in the US and abroad. This is the base of Winrock International, which now also works in leadership and organisational capacity building and natural resource management.
In 1982, Winrock opened an office in the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS). During the late 1980s and early 90s it engaged in a number of projects to develop Chinese teaching, research and policy making capacity in the field of agricultural economics. More recently, with funding from the Starr Foundation, it has developed agri-business training and exchange programmes in cooperation with CAAS and North American universities. Winrock has also been involved in a number of agricultural technology projects such as a recent effort, funded by the US Department of Agriculture, to improve the management of pig production and nutrition.
Since the early 1990s, WI has implemented a number of training and leadership development programmes funded by the Ford Foundation. The first such was a Yunnan Upland Management programme that sought to link researchers, government officials and local communities in a series of action research projects to encourage participatory approaches to rural development. Winrock was contracted to manage capacity-building and training aspects of the programme in Yunnan, later extending this work to Guizhou and Sichuan.
From 2000 , Winrock implemented a five-year, USD 1.5 million Ford-funded ‘women’s capacity building and rural development programme’ in Yunnan and Guizhou. Also funded by the Ford Foundation was a USD 900,000, three-year NGO capacity building programme that Winrock began to implement in 2002. This works with Ford Foundation NGO grantees to identify and address their needs for organisational development.
In 2005, WI launched a USD 2.5 million project in Ganzi Prefecture of western Sichuan, to promote local business development, natural resource management and cultural preservation among Tibetan communities. The 3 year project was funded by the US government Agency for International Development (USAID).
WI are currently working on a Strengthening Environmental NGOs project in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou provinces. The project is scheduled to run from 2010 – 2013, and its main objectives are to increase the credibility of local environmental NGOs with the government and the communities they serve and enable environmental NGOs to access sustainable funding.
Another current project is the TSERING project – Tibetan Sustainable Environmental Resources for Increased Economic Growth. From 2009 – 2014 the project aims to preserve cultural traditions and promote sustainable development and environmental conservation in Tibetan communities in the TAR and in other Tibetan communities in China.