“It’s these little fritillaries that paved the way of prosperity for our village,” Zhang Bao, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Manjianghong village committee, told the People’s Daily.
Manjianghong village, which is located in Tieli township, Tieli, a county-level city of Yichun, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, has to sustain a large population with insufficient arable land resources, so growing traditional Chinese medicinal materials with high output value like fritillaries became a natural choice of local villagers, introduced Nie Wei, head of the poverty-relief working team of the village.
With Hulan River in the west saturating the sandy soil, the humus of the Hinggan Mountains in the east, and the high diurnal temperature variation, Manjianghong village enjoys exceptional advantages for cultivating fritillaries.
Today, local people have developed it into a featured industry of the village where clean and tidy roads have been built and decorated with eye-catching and exquisitely-designed round signs that read “Each village has a special product. Manjianghong village has fritillary.”
“Our village has 40 to 50 years of history of growing fritillaries, but the size of the industry had always been small until recent years,” Zhang said, explaining that the village had not been able to sell their high-quality fritillaries at good prices due to the small scale of the industry and the lack of relevant techniques and organization.
At the end of February 2016, based on investigation and surveys by relevant authorities of Tieli city and Tieli township, the village finalized a plan to shake off poverty and increase villagers’ income through fritillary cultivation.
Before long, Manjianghong village received a special poverty-relief fund worth 1.8 million yuan (about $257,900) from the provincial government of Heilongjiang and 500,000 yuan from the municipal government of Tieli city.
In addition, the village also got 1.8-million-yuan worth of loans for poverty alleviation with interest subsidies after villagers joined a specialized fritillary cultivation cooperative with their land.
The cooperative was set up in March 2016, together with a traditional Chinese medicinal materials distribution company.
Fifty-three impoverished households joined the cooperative with their land and each of them has since been able to enjoy an annual dividend of 4,000 yuan.
Meanwhile, the cooperative also employed 13 villagers from poverty-stricken households, increasing their monthly income by 1,746 yuan on average.
These efforts have led to fruitful results. In the summer of 2018, Manjianghong village saw a good harvest of the first batch of fritillaries, with the yield and the output value reaching 85 tons and 4.6 million yuan.
At the end of 2018, Manjianghong village was officially removed from the list of impoverished villages.
At the same time, the village has constantly extended its fritillary industrial chain while continuously exploring new industries, developing a variety of projects including photovoltaic projects, greenhouse vegetable planting projects, and small vegetable garden projects.
“The financial departments of Yichun city and Tieli city helped establish a fritillary drying plant and a refrigeration warehouse for the village. Last year, Manjianghong village registered the Tiexin trademark for 29 categories of agricultural and sideline products,” said Du Wei, Party chief of the CPC Tieli township committee.
These projects have improved the fritillary cooperative’s bargaining power and anti-risk capability while increasing the valued added of the local products, Du said, adding that all the earnings from these projects would be used to support impoverished households, helping these families further tap into the development of featured industries.
The endeavors of Manjianghong village to develop multiple industries yielded remarkable results in 2019, when the per capita annual income of the village rocketed from over 5,000 yuan in 2016 to 23,000 yuan, up nearly five times.
At the end of 2019, all the 53 poor households of Manjianghong village shook off poverty.
As the sizes of industries grew larger day by day, Manjianghong village found itself facing new challenges threatening the local natural environment.
According to Du, villagers used to clean fritillaries in Hulan River with large manual iron troughs. Such traditional way of collecting and cleaning fritillaries had consumed more than 20,000 square meters of black soil every year. Besides, the water quality of Hulan River was also affected by the great amount of black soil flowing into the river.
Fortunately, Manjianghong village put into service a total of 21 automated fritillary cleaning plants this year. All these plants have adopted a three-level precipitation method to clean fritillaries.
“The black soil rinsed from fritillaries doesn’t flow into the river anymore, but is taken back to the farmlands,” Zhang told the People’s Daily. When he said that, two workers were pouring out fritillaries mixed with soil in front of the three-level “production line”.
An ecological tourism park that integrates fishing, sightseeing, fruit picking and catering is expected to be finished in Manjianghong village at the end of this October, Nie told the People’s Daily.
This year, Nie and his team members planted more than 800 fruit trees, created an ecological sightseeing corridor stretching for over 300 meters, and built more than 10 platforms near fishponds with the special fund designed for the development of collective economy of the village, as well as the financial support from five organizations and companies of Yichun city.
The ecological tourism park will serve as a new channel for increasing income for people in Manjianghong village, Nie said.