HEFEI, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Wherever Pan Liyue goes, she never lets her smartphone out of her sight. When a new message comes in, she picks up her phone, unlocks the screen, opens WeChat and replies to the message quickly.
Pan, 37, is from Xiaogang Village in east China's Anhui Province. Three years ago, her husband became comatose after a construction accident. The burden of the whole family suddenly fell upon Pan's shoulder.
Besides taking care of her husband 24 hours a day, she also has three children to raise, leaving her no time to work. An online shop that opened in August has rekindled the passion and hope in her.
Xiaogang village became well-known in 1978 after 18 of its farmers made a secret pact to resist the country's egalitarian agricultural system. With the land contracted to each household, the villagers only needed to hand a certain percentage of their produce to the government and were able to keep the rest of the harvest.
Farmers showed great enthusiasm in carrying out intensive farming after they were allowed to own their own fields -- commonly through a collective, the village affairs committee.
Forty years later, the local government has sought another way to mobilize the initiative of its villagers, by helping them open their own online shops.
The rural empowerment project, launched jointly by the government and e-commerce platforms, aims to empower farmers with branding and marketing. Anyone in Xiaogang can apply for an online space for free and receive free training.
"So far, all of the households have opened their own shops. Tourists and passersby can scan the QR codes at their front doors and place orders," said Shen Renlong, chief of the village committee of the Communist Party of China.
At the village's product display center, the locally produced rice, black peanuts and sweet potato starch noodles are delicately packed and exhibited along with drinks, liquor, quilts and handicrafts with local features.
Entrusted by the government, the e-commerce platforms are responsible for quality control, production, delivery and after-sales service of the products. The main task of the farmers is publicizing the products on their own social accounts, answering potential customers' questions and maintaining their e-shops.
Pan sells more than 100 products in her shop, and she knows each and every one of them well.
"How convenient it is to just move your fingers on the phone to run a shop without leaving your home," she said. Though the income is still limited so far, she takes care of every customer with sincerity.
"An order placed always brings me a sense of achievement," she said.
Shen said because of the recent tourist boom, the village received nearly 800,000 tourists last year. Incoming people push up the sales. It has become trendy among tourists to scan QR codes to have some local specialties delivered to their homes in addition to sightseeing and having a taste of the local cuisine.
Yan jinchang is one of the 18 farmers who signed the secret pact 40 years ago. He now lives with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren under the same roof.
His family members opened a home-based restaurant, which can accommodate more than 100 diners simultaneously. At the entrance of the restaurant, a huge poster with QR code stands out to catch the customers' attention.
"Anyone who is interested in the products displayed in the restaurant, or likes the taste of the farm produce, can scan and buy them," Yan said.
Pan said her revenue has climbed to 16,000 yuan (about 2,300 U.S. dollars) since the opening of the e-shop.
"I earned a total commission of nearly 900 yuan as of the end of last month," she said. She always adds her customers as friends on WeChat if possible. "Even though unfortunate circumstances fell on my family, I still need to face life actively and be grateful."