Feature: The sweet business of bee-keeping for a "runaway bride"

Source: Xinhua| 2020-03-31 22:26:37|Editor: huaxia

CHONGQING, March 31 (Xinhua) -- The first time Huang Jiangping visited her parents-in-law in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, she just wanted to run away.

In early 2018, at the persuasion of village officials, she accompanied her husband, Zhao Peng, to visit his hometown in Zhongling, a village tucked away in the boundless lush green mountains in Chongqing.

They started by taking a slow train from Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, to Chongqing's Wulong District. Then they switched to a coach bus to reach the township of Tongzi, where they went on a minivan. Then they spent more than two hours in the bouncing vehicle before finally arriving in the village.

It was a rainy day, and the muddy road made it difficult to walk.

"I had never seen such steep mountains or walked on such difficult roads," Huang recalled.

The couple went into Zhao's dimly-lit house filled by dust and spider webs. The meat in the cupboard appeared to have gone bad, and Zhao's poor parents only prepared two bowls of rice for them.

"It was beyond description," Huang said.

The village is located in one of the 18 poorest areas in Chongqing. Zhao's mother is blind, and his ailing father cannot do heavy work. Zhao is their only son. Because of their poor conditions, the junior Zhao was sent to live with his aunt in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region when he was 10 years old.

Zhao started working in Guangxi after graduation from high school and fell in love with Huang soon after. They later went to Hangzhou together for better-paying jobs.

"He was a food delivery man, and I worked as a receptionist," Huang said. "We were not super rich, but we were doing okay financially."

Local officials in Zhao's hometown found out about the family's situation and persuaded Zhao and Huang to come back to the village to raise bees, an industry they believed had huge potential. This would help lift Zhao's parents out of poverty.

"After coming to the village, we found there was no internet," Huang said. "We were basically cut off from the outside world."

Both Huang and Zhao felt bored.

"Every second felt like a year," Huang said. "Besides, we did not have much confidence in bee-keeping, so we soon just 'ran away.'"

But local officials did not give up. Official Hu Shuhong kept calling Zhao, telling him about the advantages of bee-keeping.

"I told him that the mountain has a lot of flowers, which is perfect for bee-keeping," Hu said. "Besides, the government offers subsidies, training fees and even takes charge of sales. With the roads and internet in place, everything will be fine."

Zhao was convinced and went back again. Huang later followed suit.

"I actually just wanted to stay there for a month or two, but then I got pregnant," Huang said.

While Huang fretted over the future of the family, Zhao focused on raising bees.

"I raised 30 buckets of bees, but due to my lack of experience, I failed," Zhao said. But he was not one to give up. Meanwhile, local officials brought seasoned bee-keeping experts to the family to help increase the survival rate of the bees.

With proper guidance, Zhao's bee-raising soon turned a sweet business. Last year, he managed to raise more than 90 buckets of bees, which earned a total profit of 60,000 yuan (8,464 U.S. dollars).

Huang also joined her husband in bee-keeping.

"I cared about him, and I wanted to give a helping hand," she said.

In the fall of 2019, Huang, five months into her pregnancy, started helping package honey from the bees. The work was tough, and she often worked until the wee hours of the morning.

Meanwhile, as Huang had a college degree, she was recruited as a village official after giving birth late last year, taking charge of paperwork with a monthly salary of 1,900 yuan.

"I work in the village during the day, and Zhao takes care of the baby," she said. "After I get off work, I go home to attend the baby, and he goes out to take care of the bees."

As their business gains steam, Huang feels empowered.

"Our salaries are almost the same as that in Hangzhou, but we can take care of the baby at home," she said. "I believe the revenue from bee-keeping will keep rising."