Intelligent agriculture venture lures villagers back to hometown

Updated: 2020-09-17
(china daily)

Li Yingyu now spends most of her day relaxing and dancing while her husband, Quan Yonghao, plays gateballa game similar to croquetwith his senior teammates.

It was unimaginable for the couple to enjoy such a daily life one year ago.

Li, a 65-year-old woman of Korean ethnicity residing in Hongguang village in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, decided to return to her hometown with her husband in 2019 after years of working in South Korea.

Hongguang, a distinctive village with ethnic elements, has a population of 1,067. Most residents are Korean.

At the beginning of China's reform and opening-up in the late 1970s, about 80 percent of the village's young people went to work in South Korea and developed coastal cities in China.

The local farmland was almost left abandoned. There were only about 200 villagers, most of whom are older adults and children.

"In 2010, my husband and I went to Seoul to make money," Li said. "I became a housekeeping attendant and my husband became a worker in a factory that produced metal products."

"We could earn more than 100,000 yuan ($14,600) every year, but the work was really tiring," she said. "Moreover, we were homesick."

During their nine years overseas, they only returned home three times. When the couple noticed the changes in the village, they decided to come back.

In 2009, the village built a joint venture with Linjiang Agricultural Co, according to Zhao Yunxi, the village's Party secretary. About 300 hectares of farmland was transferred to cooperative management, increasing annual per capital income from 7,000 yuan in 2009 to 16,000 yuan in 2015, he said.

"With over 10 years' effort, we have gradually realized the modernized and industrialized development of green rice and have developed a collective mutual assistance model for the elderly while promoting the construction of a new countryside."

In 2019, the annual per capita income of the village reached 50,000 yuan, he added.

In recent years, the village invested 20 million yuan to develop modern and intelligent agriculture.

As a result, all rice planting and harvesting are now conducted by machines. With help from a rural integrated service platform, the village has initiated agricultural big data collection and collation to promote the whole process of intelligent rice planting.

Starting in 2012, a construction project of four residential buildings with an area of 53,000 square meters has since been finished. All the villagers have moved to their new homes.

With an investment of 25 million yuan from the local government, the village improved its supporting facilities, including 4.8 kilometers of cement roads, heating, water supply and drainage, greening and other ancillary facilities, aiming to help the villagers live more comfortably.

The village also built a 1,400 sq m apartment that can provide 70 beds for the elderly. Older villagers with mobility difficulties will receive special care, solving challenges they face living alone.

It also inspired more villagers to return home to invest, including Jin Zhexiong, a 53-year-old man who founded a food company in Qingdao, Shandong province, in 1991.

His company mainly focuses on developing traditional Korean food, such as kimchi and fermented cabbage.

"I was born in Hongguang, and I was really happy to see the great change in my hometown," he said. "I hope to contribute my power to make my hometown better."

Jin decided to found a factory in the village with an investment of 20 million yuan.

"I can find the most authentic and memorable craft passed down from generation to generation, which can enhance the taste of our products," he said. "The black soil here is most suitable for growing our raw materialsChinese cabbage and chili."

The factory is expected to complete construction and be put into use next year, and may provide more than 200 jobs.

"I believe the future development of the village will help our company to expand its domestic market," Jin said.