Disabled man in SW China’s Yunnan brings prosperity to rural residents through vegetable planting

(People's Daily Online) 15:49, March 01, 2023

A disabled young man in Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture of southwest China’s Yunnan Province has turned gongcai, a green vegetable of the lettuce family, into a big business through the planting of the vegetable, generating wealth for local rural residents.

Photo shows a planting base of gongcai, a green dehydrated vegetable of the lettuce family, in Nanhua county, Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, southwest China’s Yunnan Province. (People’s Daily Online/Hu Zunhui)

Born into a farming family in Jinzhulin village, Shaqiao town, Nanhua county of Chuxiong in 1984, Zhou Ziling suffered from congenital absence of the right arm below the elbow. Despite his disability, he didn’t give up and has played a leading role in driving the development of the gongcai industry in the locality.

“This year, we planted vegetables on 6,300 mu (420 hectares) of land, and more than 3,000 farming households in seven counties and cities, including Lufeng city, Nanhua county, and Yongren county, were involved in the planting industry,” Zhou said.

After graduating from Chuxiong Normal University in 2007, Zhou taught at a school in Nanhua county for two years and then engaged in other businesses after resigning from the school.

In 2015, one of his customers recommended gongcai to him and he saw huge business opportunities from the vegetable. In December that year, Zhou leased 60 mu of land to plant the vegetable. When the vegetable entered harvest season in April 2016, he hired over 90 people to harvest the vegetable but failed to pick them before the end of the best harvesting period. Nearly one-third of his vegetables were abandoned. Even so, Zhou still made money from the business.

While benefiting from the business and knowing more about it, Zhou decided to start large-scale planting of the vegetable by encouraging other villagers to join the business.

Zhou Ziling (left) teaches growers how to harvest the vegetable. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

However, Zhou was pushed from pillar to post at first as many locals didn’t know the vegetable. He went to Waheijing village in Shaqiao town to advise villagers to plant the vegetable five times in 2017, but only five of the 80 households accepted his advice, with each planting the vegetable on 1 mu of land. One of the five households even uprooted the vegetable before harvesting.

Fortunately, the other four households secured a bumper harvest and generated 4,000 yuan ($577) to 6,000 yuan per mu. Attracted by the good returns from planting the vegetable, 27 farming households in the village joined the business the following year and a cooperative was established there, according to Zhou.

Zhou now runs a company and has established 15 cooperatives that benefit more than 5,000 villagers. His gongcai products are sold to countries like South Korea, Singapore, and Japan.

Zhou organizes regular training sessions for growers who sign contracts with his company. To help growers reduce costs and earn more, Zhou’s company and cooperatives formulated planting guidelines for them, ensuring that the cost per mu is less than 600 yuan.

“They can grow the vegetable in line with our standards as long as they master planting techniques,” the man said.

Zhou also adopted a business model to guarantee growers’ incomes. The model allows clients to place orders before production and ensures that the minimum purchase price of the vegetable for farmers who have signed contracts with his company is 30 yuan per kilogram.

Photo shows a smiling grower after selling his gongcai. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

“I sold out the vegetables grown on 6,300 mu of land before planting them this year, and one-third of them would be exported,” Zhou said with a smile.

As the income per mu of gongcai is relatively higher, the planting of the vegetable helps farmers boost their income, Zhou said.

“Now the purchase price of first-class products is 62 yuan per kilogram and that of second-class products is 55 yuan per kilogram,” the man said, estimating that he needs to pay over 50 million yuan to growers this year, which will expand the income for each of these growers by an average of more than 10,000 yuan.

An increasing number of young people have since joined Zhou’s cooperatives. It is expected that the planting area of the vegetable will reach 10,000 mu next year, generating a total output value of more than 100 million yuan, according to Zhou. 

Zhou Ziling (center) teaches a grower how to cut the vegetable into strips. (Photo courtesy of the interviewee)

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


Related Stories