Prospering from the land


Lushui's Laowo village has established the Duoduo Orchard with financial aid from e-commerce platform Pinduoduo. [Photo by Cheng Yuezhu/China Daily]

Yunnan's counties are developing their natural advantages, in every sense of the term, to overcome poverty by sustainably capitalizing on their healthy environments, Cheng Yuezhu and Li Yingqing report in Yunnan.

Yunnan's cloud-capped mountains conceal rich flora and fauna. And the province's counties are using a variety of methods to protect nature and harness its poverty-alleviation potential.

Sanhe village in the county-level city of Lushui lies in the Gaoligong Mountains, an area with watery landscapes, old-growth forests and ethnic villages.

Avian approach

The settlement is striking a balance between economic development and environmental preservation by establishing bird-watching sites.

Residents fondly refer to local poverty-alleviation team member Zhang Chaojiang as "uncle bird".

Zhang previously worked for Nujiang Lisu autonomous prefecture's science and technology bureau and practiced photography in his free time.

He became enthusiastic about snapping shots of birds after a friend invited him to join a bird-watching trip in 2015.


Shots of birds by Lushui's poverty-alleviation team member Zhang Chaojiang, who is known among locals as "uncle bird". [Photo provided to China Daily]

When local entrepreneur Yuan Kaiyou decided to build lodges in the village to develop agritourism two years later, they discussed what unique features the retreat should advertise. Zhang proposed establishing birdwatching sites.

"Photos of natural and artificial sceneries can be reproduced by others. And other photographers with better technique and equipment may take better shots. But bird photography is about capturing fleeting moments," Zhang says.

"They're like elusive little elves."

Sanhe piloted two bird-watching sites in the first eight months of 2018, he recalls.

Over 60 species were observed. So, the village built 10 more sites that opened in October.

Sanhe currently hosts 15 observation sites, where 208 species have been seen, including several nationally protected varieties.

Bird-watching has helped turn the village into a travel destination, replete with new bed-and-breakfasts, forest rangers and guide services that employ residents.

The village had 89 households registered as living below the poverty line at the end of last year. To date, 84 of them have overcome the threshold.

Meanwhile, about 150 hectares of farmland have been reforested.


Shots of birds by Lushui's poverty-alleviation team member Zhang Chaojiang, who is known among locals as "uncle bird". [Photo provided to China Daily]

Optimizing orchards

Lushui's Laowo village is capitalizing on its long history of growing citrons and oranges.

Companies and experts have helped the settlement develop an advanced system to produce fruit more effectively and sustainably.

The e-commerce platform Pinduoduo gave the village 2.25 million yuan ($332,000) in financial aid and established the Duoduo Orchard in Laowo.

The village's 132 households registered as living below the poverty line formed a cooperative and became its shareholders. Today, 685 households benefit from the orchard.

Early in 2019, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences expert Li Jinxue, who specializes in tropical and subtropical crops, was assigned to assist Laowo alleviate poverty.

He innovated upon the traditional planting methods by breeding improved species and using relay cropping. He also introduced high-tech equipment, such as agricultural drones and drip irrigation.

"We should allow relatively underdeveloped areas to enjoy the benefits of advanced technology," Li says.

"The most stable and productive way is to develop advanced green agriculture. Quality crops can generate over 10,000 yuan per mu (1/15th of a hectare) per season," Li says.

Laowo native Zhang Lirong returned in 2015, after leaving for education and work.

"We have a small patch of land. So, I thought I could try growing citrons. But our skills were insufficient, and the harvest was poor. This orchard is much more advanced," he says.

"The drones can identify and locate diseased plants. And the drip-irrigation system is linked to a mobile app. We can water the fields with a few taps of our phones, even when we're sitting at home. It saves time and water."


Li Jinxue, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences expert [Photo by Cheng Yuezhu/China Daily]

Herbal infusion

Another specialty of Nujiang prefecture is caoguo (Amomum tsaoko), a ginger-like plant used as herbal medicine and as a seasoning.

The plant grows throughout the region's mountains. But locals didn't have reliable channels through which to sell it at reasonable and stable prices.

So, Yunnan Energy Investment Group cooperated with the prefecture's government to establish Nujiang Poverty Alleviation and Investment Development Co Ltd, which established factories near the villages and purchases caoguo directly from the villagers.

The company's general manager Zhang Jihua says transporting caoguo is difficult for villagers. And it's dried over fires, which poses health hazards.

"The price of caoguo has gradually stabilized since our company started in 2017," Zhang Jihua says.

"The quality has also improved through the training we offer farmers and government support."

The company has been working with such institutions as Yunnan Agricultural University and Southwest University in Chongqing to extend the shelf life of caoguo and develop new products.

The company says it has made purchases from over 5,000 households from 14 counties in the prefecture and created 277 jobs for locals.


A Nujiang villager works at a factory, processing caoguo (Amomum tsaoko), a ginger-like plant that grows in the area. [Photo by Cheng Yuezhu/China Daily]

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