Zhao'an County, in Zhangzhou, a city in Southeast China's Fujian Province, has been widely known for the planting of guavas (a tropical fruit with yellow skin and pink pulp) for more than 30 years. Due in part to the poor growing techniques used in the past, the guavas in Zhao'an were not of a good quality. Therefore, the guavas sold for a low price. Chen Xiaodong and her husband, Li Xiangfeng, noticed that good-quality guavas sold very well in urban areas. In 2016, the couple decided to improve the method used to plant guavas in their hometown, Zhao'an. During the past several years, they have helped fellow villagers, especially women, increase their incomes by growing higher-quality guavas.
After Chen and Li returned to Zhao'an County, Chen realized although the guavas tasted sweet, the skins of the fruit were too thick. She began studying growing techniques, so she could improve the quality of the guavas. She learned how to farm from her grandfather. She and Li planted 42 seedlings, in a field, as a trial. They took photos of the seedlings, and they asked experienced farmers to teach them how to improve their growing skills.
The couple started their guava-growing business from scratch. They believed it was important to first improve the species they were going to grow. They formed a team, and they completed several agricultural-production courses. They visited experts and experienced farmers, outside their hometown, to learn advanced-growing techniques. Following a series of trials, Chen and Li planted, in 2019, guavas that ripened with very sweet, and soft, pulp. Chen named the species "Mrs. Chen's guavas."
Chen and Li then visited their fellow villagers — door to door — and persuaded them to participate in the guava-growing business. "In the past, farmers earned 4,000 yuan (US $615) a year, generally, by growing guavas on one mu (0.067 hectare) of land by traditional techniques. But now, the newly developed species of guava helps them earn 20,000 yuan (US $3,077) per mu a year," Chen says. To date, villagers from 800-plus households, from 10 neighboring villages, are growing "Mrs. Chen's guavas." The combined growing area exceeds 1,300 mu (86.67 hectares).
Chen and Li run the business together, but they shoulder different responsibilities. Chen meets with farmers, while Li focuses on e-commerce management. "Mrs. Chen's guavas" are known on the Internet as "popular guavas that taste like ice cream." The couple promotes their guavas via livestreaming events. They use online platforms to develop e-commerce, and to help farmers sell various agricultural products.
A Growing Business
Chen and Li have helped villagers in their hometown, especially rural women, learn from each other e-commerce management and agricultural production tips and skills. They have invited experts and professionals, from scientific-research institutes, to guide the farmers as they try to improve their growing techniques. Chen and Li also established a company, which has been named by the Fujian Academy of Agricultural Sciences an industrial techniques innovation and service basement.
Influenced by the couple, villagers in Zhao'an have developed an interest in e-commerce and entrepreneurship. "Someone has visited me and my husband to ask if I can help sell products to ‘those who are from a computer'," Chen says.
Chen and Li care about rural women, especially those who make up their minds to start a business. Under the guidance and with support of women's federations, at all levels, Chen and Li have helped women from 10 neighboring villages start a home-based business. More than 3,000 women have found work planting, packaging and/or transporting guavas. What's more, Chen has organized various charitable events, such as "reading day," to help children in her hometown broaden their horizons.
Since the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at the beginning of 2020, farmers in Zhao'an have coped with various difficulties as they have tried to sell guavas. Many of the farmers have not been able to transport their fruit from their hometown to other places. A lot of guavas have rotted. Meanwhile, customers in urban areas have had a difficult time purchasing fresh fruits. Chen and Li have used their WeChat Moments and other groups to connect farmers with their customers. They have tried very hard to achieve contact-free distribution. The couple have also bought guavas and given the fruit as gifts to people who have worked on the front line of epidemic prevention and control.
During the past six years, Chen and Li have been known as the famous "couple of entrepreneurship" in Zhao'an. More and more families in the county, especially couples, have been following Chen and Li's lead, and they have been working hard to live happy and prosperous lives. Chen and Li have both said they want to make contributions, especially to change the traditional look of their hometown — by encouraging fellow villagers to start businesses, and to strive for rural revitalization.
Chen and Li's family was named a National Most Beautiful Family earlier this year.
Photos Supplied by Interviewees
(Source: The Department of Family and Children's Affairs of the All-China Women's Federation/Women of China English Monthly August 2022 issue)
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