Anhui local shares heartwarming experience of fight against poverty

By Zhu Bochen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 9, 2019
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Wei Zhengyu, a local in the Yu'an district of the eastern Chinese province of Anhui shares his experience of how he emerged from poverty by building his Gualou farm, July 8, 2019. [Photo by Zhu Bochen/]

Wei Zhengyu, a 37-year-old resident of Yu'an district in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui, shared his journey from being classified as one of the poor in his district to becoming the owner of a successful farming startup.

Wei's descent into poverty was primarily caused by illness. He was diagnosed with tuberculous pleurisy around a decade ago and had to quit his job as a quality control (QC) staff in a trading company in Shanghai.

As one of the few young people registered as part of the poor population in Yu'an district, Wei was not content with his predicament. "Although I had to return to my hometown due to my poor health, I still wanted to achieve something here," he said.

Shortly after Wei recovered, he visited one of his friends' Gualou (Trichosanthes kirilowii) farm in the nearby Anqing city in 2015. During his visit, Wei was impressed by the high medical value of the seeds of the Cucurbitaceae plant which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. After thoroughly assessing the potential business opportunity and considering environmental factors, Wei decided to introduce the crop to Yu'an, and started his own farm.

Wei faced financial difficulties in the beginning, but was fortunate to receive support from the local government. As part of its efforts to reduce poverty in the region, the government provided funds to help businesses that leverage local strength. In Wei's case, this included giving him a 50,000-yuan ($7,240) loan with fiscal discount, transferring the land use right, and helping him promote sales of his seeds.

In addition, Wei also acquired specialized knowledge and learned new techniques for Gualou cultivation by taking courses at the Anhui Agricultural University and learning from many of his peers who were farmers.

In 2017, three years after he founded his startup, Wei's farm became one of the leading businesses in rural Yu'an. The farm has not only lifted Wei's family out of poverty, but also created dozens of jobs for impoverished locals.

As one of the first few people who benefited from targeted poverty-alleviation policies, Wei was grateful for the assistance he received. "Our government's efforts to alleviate poverty have indeed improved my life; because of this I feel obliged to help others find their way out of poverty," he said.

Wei also expressed concern on two issues - the increasing investment of growing Gualou every year, and the lack of specialized insurance for the cultivation of the crop.

"As a cyclical business, agricultural production is a high risk endeavor especially when facing extreme weather and calamities like typhoons and hail. I hope, similar to rice and corns, Gualou will also be covered with specialized insurance," said Wei.

Speaking on his future plans for his Gualou farm, Wei said he wants to improve sales promotion by putting more added-value into the seeds of Gualou. Wei also wants to help more locals build their own Gualou farms.

Still, Wei's success in emerging from poverty is not the only case in Yu'an. At the end of 2018, a total of 44,800 families and 127,300 people were lifted out of poverty. The percentage of people living in poverty in Yu'an had also decreased to 1.21%.

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