Across China: Belgian youth leads idyllic life in SW China-Xinhua

Across China: Belgian youth leads idyllic life in SW China

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2024-06-25 20:59:15

This undated photo shows Belgian youth Kevin Cillen Michael E. (1st L, back) and his family members at their home in Xiasi Village, Dushan County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Xinhua)

GUIYANG, June 25 (Xinhua) -- Nestled in the heart of the mountains in Xiasi Village, Dushan County, southwest China's Guizhou Province, lies a unique ecological family farm. It is run by Kevin Cillen Michael E., a 28-year-old Belgian who has a passion for the land.

Together with his parents and siblings, they have combined Western farming techniques with local countryside practices to cultivate an "ecological oasis" in the remote area.

Surrounded by verdant hills and the melodious songs of birds, the family has dedicated themselves to the land, tirelessly pursuing their farming dream in China. Their journey began in 2000 when Kevin's mother, Hetty Cillen Bottheft, visited China as a volunteer for the first time. The enchanting landscapes and rich cultural tapestry of Guizhou captivated her, compelling her to make this foreign country her home. Soon after, Kevin's father, Patrick Jan Cillen, joined her in Guizhou.

In 2017, the family embarked on a new chapter, relocating to Xiasi Township to lease a plot amid the local forest and establish an ecological farm. From the ground up, they laid the foundation, leveling the terrain, sowing pastures, and acquiring lambs and chicks for rearing.

Determined to enrich the forage for their animals, Kevin ventured into cultivating rapeseed flowers, a new endeavor for him. He sought advice from the local warm-hearted villagers, who generously shared their knowledge. Under their meticulous tutelage, Kevin honed his skills.

The locals have warmly embraced the foreigners, integrating them into their community, inviting them to festivities and celebrating traditional Chinese holidays together. In 2018, Yang Chengkai, a 34-year-old villager of Xiasi Village, befriended the family and often assisted them on the farm.

"We often make our way up the hill to lend a hand at their farm when they're mowing the lawn. The community here has really embraced this family. Even the vendors at our local food market contribute by generously giving them vegetable scraps for free, which they use to feed their livestock," said Yang.

During this year's May Day festival, Yang collaborated with Kevin to produce a short video showcasing the local folk culture. The video was well-received and helped attract more attention to Guizhou's bullfighting traditions and cattle farming culture.

Guizhou, once plagued by ecological degradation and poverty, has transformed itself into a national pilot area for ecological civilization in China. Through innovative environmental measures, it has significantly improved its forest coverage and reduced the area of rocky desertification by 43 percent over the past decade. The province is now on a "green path," achieving harmony between humans and nature and integrating economic growth with ecological balance.

Kevin's family farm, hidden deep within the dense forest, is a testament to Guizhou's ecological progress. The farm practices diversified grass cultivation for high-quality animal feed, utilizes solar panels for clean energy, and employs automatic rainwater harvesting systems for a stable water supply. They treat animal diseases with Chinese herbal medicine, and the free-range animals in the forest contribute to soil fertility, enabling ecological recycling.

The farm's expanding forage sources and improving forest ecology have inspired Kevin and Patrick to explore a unique farm development model, bolstering their confidence in ecological agriculture. Over the years, the farm has grown in size and diversity, now housing hundreds of livestock including goats, chickens, rabbits, and ducks.

Caring for these animals has become routine for the family, creating a blend of hard work and pure joy. Patrick, who grew up on a farm in Belgium, proudly watches his son Kevin work on their Guizhou farm, embodying the legacy of their "Chinese farm dream."

Living in China, Kevin has witnessed the country's remarkable changes. "The village has taken on a new look, and more and more people have begun to return to the countryside to enjoy the quiet pastoral life," he said. As a "new farmer," Kevin has also seized the opportunities of the internet and new media to increase the farm's visibility.

In addition to managing the farm, Kevin has partnered with Qiu Ye, a local social media influencer in Guizhou, to set up accounts like "Kevin's family in Guizhou" on various platforms. By sharing their daily lives on the farm and the natural beauty of rural China, their authentic and "grounded" content has quickly garnered a large following, with over 700,000 subscribers to date.

"We are humbled by the interest in our story," Kevin said. "But we are delighted to share our life in China with others, hoping our experiences will help more people understand China and its agricultural development."

After more than two decades in China, Kevin and his family consider Guizhou their home. They have a clear vision for the future: to focus on ecological farming, explore new agricultural models, and promote environmental awareness through social media to attract more attention to ecological agriculture.

Their Chinese friend Qiu Ye also plans to tap into live-streaming to help local agricultural products reach a wider market and to expand and enrich the content of their social media accounts, promoting Guizhou's major tourist attractions and renowned folk sports events such as the "Village Super League" and "Village Basketball League."

This undated photo shows Patrick Jan Cillen, father of Belgian youth Kevin Cillen Michael E., taking care of goats at their family farm in Xiasi Village, Dushan County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Xinhua)

This undated photo shows Belgian youth Kevin Cillen Michael E. feeding goats at his family farm in Xiasi Village, Dushan County, southwest China's Guizhou Province. (Xinhua)