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Villages benefit from adopting new technologies

By Qiu Quanlin (China Daily)

09:10, October 18, 2012

After visiting several northern Guangdong villages, which once were below the poverty line but now have a new look with enhanced living condition and farming practices, I now wish my hometown, a small village also in northern Guangdong, could be included in the province-wide poverty alleviation program.

I grew up in Changkeng, a typical Guangdong-styled village that is surrounded by rolling green mountains.

From the time I was born, my family, along with more than 800 fellow villagers, have depended on farming tobacco to make a living.

Villagers traditionally have to prepare to farm tobacco shortly after Spring Festival in January or February every year, from buying seedlings and chemical fertilizer to plowing. It takes at least six months to grow the tobacco and sell it to purchasing stations that are monopolized by local governments.

In the 1990s, my cousin was able to generate about 10,000 yuan ($1,600) a year by farming tobacco on a plot of 0.67 hectares.

The situation has not changed much, though, mainly because of the lack of innovation on farming practices.

"Today, the income doubles if you farm tobacco of the same land area. But production costs have gone up a lot as well," my cousin said.

Since the land near the village is mostly red soil, which, in villagers' understanding, is very arable for tobacco growth, villagers have not tried to plant other crops.

Years have passed. They can hardly make enough of a profit to make ends meet.

But in Miantian, a village that once was equally poor in the mountainous county of Yingde I visited late last month, I found things could be different because of the poverty alleviation program.

Local farmer Li Rifan told me that he did not continue planting peanuts and paddy rice, a business that he had been engaged in for more than two decades.

Instead, the 51-year-old started to plant vegetables last year.

Local authorities introduced a Dongguan-based company to set up a vegetable base in the village and organized some farming technicians to help farmers grow them.

The products are shipped directly to Hong Kong on a daily basis.

The move has been a success. Planting vegetables allowed Li to have earned more than 6,000 yuan so far this year, much higher than the income from planting peanuts and paddy rice.

I asked Liao Jikun, an official with the Guangdong Provincial Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development: "Will the new farming methods be extended to villages that are not targeted in the poverty alleviation program list?"

The official answered: "We will review the program by raising the poverty line beginning next year. I hope your hometown will be included in the list."

The program now targets 3,407 villages in the province, and 2,000 more will be included in the list this year, Liao said.

Unable to anticipate any good news for my hometown at the moment, I gave my cousin a phone call to encourage him to work harder.

But in rural areas, my cousin said, hard work does not pay off a lot. "We hope some technicians will come visit and give instruction on new farming methods," he said.

<i>Contact the writer at [email protected]
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