CHONGQING, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- By offering their lands to a herb planting cooperative, more than 400 farming households in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality have received a total of over 200,000 yuan (30,000 U.S. dollars) in dividends so far this year.
The farmers live in Shizhu Tujia Autonomous County and are anticipating more dividends from the cooperative. They are looking forward to the money, and earning more, at the end of the year so that they can celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a history of thousands of years. Despite the controversy in western countries, it is very popular in China and is helping decrease poverty in southwest China.
Shizhu is a mountainous and poverty-stricken place, and more than 70 percent of its population are Tujia people, an ethnic minority in China.
In the village of Huangshan, where the farmers live, there is much poverty, and due to the terrain and poor land quality, there are few crops.
Among the 1,741 people of 510 households in the village, 230 villagers of 73 households live below the national poverty line.
Young people usually leave the village to become migrant workers in cities, leaving the elderly and weak to stay in the village. This leads to a vicious cycle where more farmland is left uncultivated.
The Tujia people have long suffered from poverty.
"There aren't many electric appliances at my home. The old television was bought when I got married in 1995. It hasn't been changed for over twenty years," said Qin Tinglan, a villager.
However, since the beginning of the year there have been positive changes.
A professional TCM cooperative was started, which is closely connected with the TCM planting enterprise.
A total of 416 households provide 62 hectares of farmland for the planting of herbs, and the farmland has been evaluated by a third party on the basis of four classes of fertility. This land was converted into a 775,000-yuan share of the cooperative.
In addition, 500,000 yuan of funds from the village have also been invested as a share of the cooperative.
"Cultivated land is so scattered in the mountainous area. We have to collect them so as to attract enterprises to develop this place," said Huang Wanneng, deputy head of Daxie Township.
"To develop TCM planting and produce in the village was not a hasty decision," Huang said. "Experts came to the village and carried out several rounds of surveys and finally confirmed that Huangshan Village was able to plant herbs and develop the TCM industry."
"The environment, weather and vegetation coverage here are fit for herb planting. The quality of medicines produced here is leading in the country. Since my company has already had mature industrial chains and advanced technology, many large-scale pharmaceutical factories come to purchase our products," said He Zengfeng, president of the cooperative.
He said that so far they had planted and harvested Bai He (Lily Bulb), Jiang Huang (Turmeric) and Qian Hu (Hogfennel Root), which all have a stable market.
Pharmaceutical factories from Beijing, and provinces of Hebei, Anhui, Zhejiang and Sichuan have ordered many of the herbs.
After the cooperative was founded, householders gained a fixed income as their land would be given dividends every year depending on the fertility category of the land.p Moreover, the cooperative has created many jobs for local villagers. Those who cannot do heavy farm work can do other work, such as weeding, clearing insects and washing herbs. Each can be paid 60 to 100 yuan every day.
Ran Chongfang, 52, gave 5,000 square meters of land to the cooperative, which she also works for.
"We can get more than 20,000 yuan this year. Before we joined the cooperative, the highest income of my family was around 4,000 yuan a year," Ran said.
Qin Zongzhen, 68, also bought into and works in the cooperative. Her children left the village, and only her husband, who is very ill, lives with her in the village.
"We could make a living from the government's minimum living allowances. But now, we have TCM industry in our village and I have become a shareholder. Our family income is expected to increase," Qin said.
"Each household could have their income increased by at least 5,000 yuan this year, while the village collective can also gain nearly 50,000 yuan," Huang said.
"Developing the TCM industry in the village leads to a multi-win situation. Left-over lands are reused, impoverished households see their income increasing, left-behind elders have job opportunities, while the village collective has economic income," according to Huang.