Distinctive industries help SW China's township escape poverty

(Xinhua) 15:01, May 11, 2024

CHONGQING, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Tucked away in deep mountains, Zhongyi Township, once plagued by poverty, is now undergoing a revitalization journey, and this transformation is driven by the development of specialized industries such as herbal medicine cultivation and ecotourism.

During China's critical battle against poverty, agriculture in this township, located in Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, shifted from traditional and extensive practices to distinctive and lucrative approaches.

Rhizoma polygonati, or Huangjing in Chinese, is a traditional herb medicine in China and was selected as one of the key crops in Zhongyi.

"Zhongyi has a conducive environment for growing Huangjing. Wild Huangjing can be found in the local forests and mountains, and some villagers have previously planted the herb sporadically," said Lang Tao, deputy Party secretary of Zhongyi.

"Since the end of 2018, village collectives of the township started large-scale Huangjing plantation, with the cultivation area exceeding 100 hectares," Lang added, noting that this large-scale cultivation created many part-time job opportunities for the local residents.

"I earn more than 30,000 yuan (about 4,225 U.S. dollars) from part-time jobs by maintaining the cultivation of Huangjing and renting out my farmlands," said Chen Peng. "When Huangjing is harvested, we can expect additional dividends of about 36,000 yuan."

Zhongyi has seen an expansion of the agricultural industry chain to maximize benefits. The township now boasts an entire industry chain, from Huangjing breeding and planting to processing. It has transformed Huangjing into more than 10 products, including noodles and pastries.

In Zhongyi's Huaxi Village, a noodle factory covering 1,400 square meters was established in 2022, with an annual yield of over 300 tonnes of noodles. "We have introduced noodle-making techniques from central China's Henan Province to the village, and expanded our market to numerous foreign countries," said Guo Qirui, who is in charge of the factory.

The idyllic scenery and rich intangible cultural heritage of the Tujia ethnic group in Zhongyi make it a magnet for agricultural study tours. "Every corner serves as a classroom for study tours, where visitors can explore Huangjing planting and beekeeping bases, as well as engage in hands-on experiences like rice farming," Lang said.

"We fully tap into our distinctive agricultural, ecological and cultural resources, and integrate them into the needs of schools or enterprises," Lang said, adding that the township saw nearly 40,000 study tour visitors in 2023, raking in a revenue of more than 12 million yuan.

The burgeoning industries in Zhongyi have encouraged young people to return to their roots. In the past three years alone, over 100 people have returned to their hometown and delved into entrepreneurial pursuits as agricultural managers and study tour guides, injecting new vitality into the local industrial development.

"Drawing on my years of experience as a fitness instructor, I design outdoor fitness courses for young people on study tours, allowing them to engage in physical fitness while connecting with nature," said Tan Cao, 31, who is in charge of a company involved in study tours and e-commerce development in Zhongyi.

Wang Qiushi, a 30-year-old local who studied arts in college, designs cartoon images of Huangjing, making it more appealing to young consumers.

The distinctive industries have brought tangible benefits to the local residents. The per capita disposable income of the rural residents in Zhongyi hit 20,600 yuan last year from 15,600 yuan in 2020.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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