Greenhouses for cherry tree plantation are pictured in Shichao Town, Wuchuan County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, Nov. 17, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Jingya)
GUIYANG, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- A decade ago, villagers in the mountain township of Shichao, in southwest China's Guizhou Province, were knee-deep in poverty, scraping a meager living by growing corn.
Today, they have turned lives around by gradually blanketing the township's barren mountain with income-generating plants such as honeysuckle.
In 2012, Guo Zerong was one of the first villagers to answer the call of officials of Shichao, in Wuchuan Gelao and Miao Autonomous County, to grow honeysuckle in the barren mountain.
"Honeysuckle is drought tolerant, easy to care for, and has high economic value," Guo said. "It is a good fit for us."
Guo has expanded his honeysuckle farm to more than 70 mu (4.67 hectares) from only several mu in the beginning, adding over 80,000 yuan (about 11,280 U.S. dollars) to his household's annual income.
The 1,400-hectare honeysuckle now produces around 30 percent of the per capita disposable income of Shichao's rural residents, according to official statistics.
With an average altitude of 1,200 meters, Shichao, which is rainy and foggy nearly half of the time, used to be listed as one of Guizhou's 20 townships in extreme poverty.
Adverse natural conditions had hindered the villagers from growing distinctive crops, said Shichao's Party chief Shen Gang.
Over the years, with the collaboration of the local government, enterprises, and cooperatives, a variety of distinctive crops have been growing in Shichao, including Chinese Torreya, honeysuckle, peppers, and cherries, significantly increasing the income of locals.
Tian Hua, a 45-year-old villager, returned to Shichao in 2014 from south China's Guangdong Province to start a business.
In late 2017, he transported more than 500 cherry trees from the city of Dalian, northeast China's Liaoning Province, to Shichao and has since built 10 greenhouses and grown nearly 20,000 cherry trees.
The temperature, humidity, and light control system in the greenhouses has helped cherry trees grow in Shichao, which is otherwise not warm enough and cannot provide sufficient sun exposure for the plant.
"Over five years, our farm has produced nearly 10,000 kg of cherries, yet still not enough to meet the local demand," Tian said.
Meanwhile, he has grown 20 hectares of Herba Houttuyniae, plums, and nectarines. Accumulatively, he has paid over 4 million yuan in wages.
Tian is also planning to venture into agritourism, and further diversify the sources of income for local communities.
"Shichao has its unique advantages for development. Play the cards right, villages and towns in high-altitude and cold areas can surely carve out a distinctive way of rural revitalization," said Shen Gang. ■
Honeysuckles are planted on the hillsides in Shichao Town, Wuchuan County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, Nov. 16, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Jingya)