Guizhou, the only province in China that does not have a plain, is always considered a region located in high mountains and deep valleys.
However, the Chejiang Dam north of Rongjiang county in southeast Guizhou is presenting a totally different view – villagers busy farming on a vast flat land which is covered by steel-structured greenhouses, numerous vegetable plantations, as well as newly ploughed farmland.
It’s hardly imaginable that the high-quality cropland in the barrage area, which is rare in Guizhou province and covers an area of nearly 700 hectares, was once in extreme chaos.
The lack of systematic planning and development was once a major problem of the place. Ponds, chicken farms and agritainment facilities popped up in flocks, but they seldom achieved major success. Besides, as a dam built close to the Rongjiang county, it is densely populated with migrants from other regions, where unapproved construction projects were prevalent.
Since last November, Rongjiang county started orderly industrial construction in the barrage area, and the first step was to dismantle unapproved construction projects. The county restored over 97 hectares of illegally occupied land, dismantled 207 unapproved buildings that covered 5.5 hectares, and removed 73.6 hectares of nursery stock and 7.6 hectares of ponds whose usage of land was illegally changed. Thanks to these efforts, the Chejiang Dam was finally brought back to what it should be – a piece of high-quality cropland covering 700 hectares.
Few people made a fortune from agriculture in the barrage area in the past. Ou Anyang, a 71-year-old farmer who owns only 0.27 hectares of land, considers farming his lifetime business. When he was young, only by working a few months in the land, the rice he cultivated was able to supply his whole family. However, in recent years, he only made less than 10,000 yuan ($1,408) each year after 12 months of bustling in the watermelon and sugarcane plantations run by him and his fellow villagers.
To scale up the profits, the priority is to select proper crops for the barrage area. After studies on the region’s natural conditions and market demand, high value-added crops such as pepper, pumpkin, cowpea, eggplant, pea seedlings and flowering cabbage were selected by authorities as the optimal plants for the county.
Besides, Tongjiang county invited Guiyang Agricultural Investment Group to conduct systematic operation in the barrage area. It also established a joint corporation with agricultural investment companies and cooperatives in the county. At first, the land was transferred at around 1,600 yuan per 667 square meters, and local farmers were prioritized in the employment of the corporation. The farmers’ land was later converted into shares of the corporation when operation and profit stabilized.
By May 11, a total of 631 hectares of land have been transferred in the barrage area, over 99 percent of which have been planted with vegetables. It created 38,268 jobs for local people, including 25,234 from registered impoverished households, helping them gain a total income of 2.52 million yuan.
With the opening of Guiyang-Guangzhou high speed railway and multiple expressways, the marketing channel of Rongjiang’s agricultural products was further expanded. Guiyang Agricultural Investment Group has contacted many national and provincial wholesale markets for the barrage area’s first batch of vegetable products, and 142 grocery stores and merchants have inked procurement agreement.
“Efficient utilization remains the best way to protect the Chejiang Dam,” said Ma Lei, secretary of the Communist Party of China Rongjiang county commission. The high-standard renovation of the farmland upgraded the vegetable growing industry of the country, and the annual output is expected to hit 238 million yuan when a vegetable base is completed. This year the number will reach 140 million.
“This is just a start, and we will integrate agriculture, culture and tourism in the future by combining with secondary and tertiary industries,” Ma noted.