Industrial upgrading helps northwest China farmers shake off poverty

Once poverty stricken, the farmers in a village in northwest China's Shaanxi Province now have overcome their plight after shifting their focus to industrial upgrading to develop local specialty industry -- black fungus farming.

Three years ago, the farmers of Jinmi Village, a village located in the hinterland deep in the Qinling Mountains, tried to shake off poverty via industrializing local agriculture. However, their attempts of industrializing the plantation of valuable agricultural products such as peony and taro all ended up in failure.

Eventually the farmers set sight on local specialty black fungus, but they were facing a number of difficulties to convert small scale farming into industrialized agricultural services.

Noticing the farmers' struggle, local authorities sent officials to help them address the issues.

"On industrial development, we have fully learned from the lessons in the past, realizing that finding the right path is the crux. Black fungus farming is a tradition in the village, but we didn't have the technology, nor did we have a large-scale farming mode. So we relied on the Jiangsu-Shaanxiaid program to build greenhouses in the village with the fund provided by the program," said Lan Shengtao, the first secretary of Jinmi village committee of Communist Party of China.

The officials tailored a "prescription" to help the villagers go through the difficulties with industrial upgrading, namely building greenhouses to intensify the production and facilitate the transfer of black fungus farming technology in the village.

To dispel the villagers' concerns, the officials decided to go door-to-door to promote their industrial upgrading plan while offering technical support for those who are interested.

"As long as the villagers ask for help and are willing to learn, we will send personnel to serve and help them. Gradually a technical support team was established, the number of black fungus growers increased, and the industry developing steadily," said Zhao Zhijun, leader of the technical support team at Jinmi Village.

The industrialization of black fungus farming brought to Jinmi Village an annual Per Capita Income (PCI) of 9,657 yuan (approx. 1415 U.S. dollars) in 2019, dropping the village's poverty rate to 0.23 percent.

On April 20, 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, visited the village to inspect the progress of local poverty alleviation work.

During the inspection, Xi pointed out that it is essential to extend the industrial chain, improve resilience against risks, and establish a more stable mechanism for connecting interests so as to ensure sustained and steady income growth for the poor.

In order to increase the risk-resistant capability of the industry, the local government further extended the industrial development chain and upgraded Jinmi Village into a modern agricultural park. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic this year, the sales of black fungus still increased with the help of leading e-commerce platforms and live streaming promotions.

The farmers in Jinmi Village now no longer depend only on tilling the land for a living.

"The black fungus industry is growing bigger. It helps us farmers to earn more money. We (want to) promote the Zhashui black fungus across the whole world," said He Xiaoyan, a villager.