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From bitter to honey sweet: a beekeeper’s road out of poverty

By Liu Ning, Yuan Meng, Jeffrey Moeller, Cui Yue (People's Daily Online)    18:19, October 31, 2019

Benefiting from the targeted poverty alleviation project, 32-year-old Long Xianlan has learned beekeeping skills and developed apiculture methods based on the given resources and local conditions in Shibadong Village, central China's Hunan province.

He has now founded his own beekeeping company and has even registered a trademark for his honey products. Long's business has helped 118 beekeepers from his village and surrounding communities get out of poverty.

Bee keeper Long Xianlan shows a honeycomb at a nectar source in Shibadong Village. (Photo: Xinhua/Chen Zeguo)

But the past painted a very different picture.

Shibadong, located in the remote mountainous county of Huayuan in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture of Hunan, is home to members of the Miao ethnic group. It used to be a poverty-stricken village with little arable land and an inadequate transportation system.

Things were even worse for Long. He was orphaned at a young age.

"My dad passed away. My mom got remarried. My sister was also gone. At that time, I thought God was unfair to me," Long stumbled.

Without any direction in life, Long became an alcoholic.

"I drank alcohol wherever I could find it. Then I got hungover and slept wherever. That's how I spent my youth," Long said. "Villagers saw me like my life was done for, and I would be a drunkard for the rest of my life."

Things started to change for Long a few years ago. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the village and called for the implementation of measures to help pull villagers out of poverty. In 2014, a poverty alleviation work team formed by the county government came to the village. With the support and encouragement of the work team, Long developed a solid business plan.

"We encouraged Long to make a living from beekeeping, and we offered to provide support, including the training he required," said Long Xiulin, the head of the alleviation work team at the time.

Through observation and constant learning, Long Xianlan became interested and dedicated to his new profession.

Trying his hand at his first sale, he sold 5 kg of honey in two days, which earned him 1,200 yuan. With the income, Long saw hope and gained more confidence in keeping bees.

 Long Xianlan gets the worm out of a beehive at a nectar source in Shibadong Village. (Photo: Xinhua/Chen Zeguo)

"I saw the bees work hard to collect pollen, even before sunrise and at nightfall. I thought I should learn from them," Long said.

In 2015, Long Xianlan met his wife at a blind-dating event organized by the village committee, and they married in 2017. He said that, in the past, women were not willing to marry men from the village because they were so poor, but since he had found a good job, he was no longer deemed a "loser".

"It's the bees that rid me of poverty and helped me find the love of my life," Long said with joy.

Long Xianlai and his wife. (Photo provided by Long Xianlai.) 

In 2018, Long's honey output was over 1,000 kilograms, granting him an income of nearly 300,000 yuan. He said this year's yield is expected to sell for over 500,000 yuan.

Long expressed gratefulness to everything that has happened to him since the poverty alleviation campaign started to improve Shibadong's economy and his own life conditions.

Long invites more villagers to try beekeeping, as he said demand outweighs supply through online advertising and recommendations.

"Beekeeping can help more villagers get out of poverty and make a living. It will also help boost the village's economy," Long said. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Liu Ning, Bianji)

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