Open Governance
Visit to Excellent Key County Designated to Receive Assistance for Rural Revitalization in Sichuan

In autumn, ripe pears emit a sweet-smelling fragrance. On both sides of the Dajinchuan River, plump pears hang on branches in orchards in Jinchuan County, and farmers are busy picking and packing.

Sichuan houses 50 national and provincial key counties designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization. "Building a support system for counties (villages) designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization" is one of the key tasks of the province's rural revitalization system this year.  Recently, the Sichuan Provincial Leading Group for Consolidating and Expanding the Achievements in Poverty Alleviation issued relevant guidance.

Jinchuan County is a key county designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization. In 2022, the per capita net income of families lifted out of poverty was 12,322 yuan, with a growth rate of 15.8%, which was higher than the average level in the province. Jinchuan County then was rated as an excellent key county designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization in the province. How did the local government upgrade industries, expand employment, and stimulate economic development? 

To build industrial chains

Growing the pear industry, developing the green vegetable industry

Jinjiang Village in Ge'er Township is the core producing area of Jinchuan Pear, with more than 266.7 hectares of orchards all over the mountains.  However, marks on the trunks of many pear trees show that they have been cut.

"To develop Jinchuan Pear, the pear trees must be trimmed and dwarfed." According to Luo Lin, Senior Agronomist of the Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of Jinchuan County, traditional pear trees in Jinchuan County are tall and high-yielding, but the pears are difficult to pick.

Many families have only the elderly and women living in Jinjiang Village, who are unable to take care of pear orchards. In January this year, Jinjiang Village invited experienced farmers and technical instructors to form a rural revitalization service team, serving "unskilled and incompetent" villagers with pear tree management and protection. "We can prune and help solve problems that people cannot deal with," said Peng Kailian, Party branch secretary of Jinjiang Village.

In the past, local people afforded to put their children through college and got rid of poverty with earnings from pear selling. Yet, over the years, Jinchuan Pear did not fetch a good price because the variety had been cultivated for a long period of time.

How to reopen the market? The answer lies in the pear orchard of Liu Xinghe.

Liu's orchard is crowded with red pears, Huangjin pears, and Jinhua pears. He began to introduce new varieties of pear trees in 2016, and today, his 1.7-hectare orchard mainly has six varieties. "The new varieties of pears sold well. They sold out in a few days." According to Liu, the output of more than 2,200 pear trees is expected to reach 50,000 kilograms this year. Selling fresh fruits, making pear syrup, and brewing pear wine can generate more than 200,000 yuan a year. Liu started to learn how to brew pear wine last year and succeeded at the beginning of this year. "The sales were satisfying, and we are preparing to build a factory this year."

Jinchuan County has incubated six leading enterprises in the deep processing of pears, which developed and produced pear syrup, candies, beverages, and wine, baked pear slices, and other products, and created a regional public brand of Jinchuan Pear Syrup. At the same time, the county set foot in the tourism and folk culture industries to develop its "pear economy". It held the Pear Blossom Festival, Pear Picking Festival, and other pear-themed activities. Since March 2023, Jinchuan County received a total of 940,000 tourists, up 62.05% year-on-year, bringing in a total tourism revenue of 68.76 million yuan, up 38.58% year-on-year.

In addition to expanding the pear industry, Jinchuan County also develops the green vegetable industry in townships located in broad valleys of the plateau based on its unique climate.

"The first batch of celtuce has been sold in July, and the second will be available at the end of September," said Li Chuncui, a villager of Xinkaizong Village in Lewu Town. The village's average altitude is 3,100 meters, with a long sunshine duration, which allows vegetables to be sold in different seasons. The planting area of celtuce in Xinkaizong Village now tops 66.7 hectares. Celtuce can be planted twice a year, generating an average income of over 10,000 yuan per mu when prices are good.

Jinchuan County has planted 1,633.3 hectares of vegetables and 3,333.3 hectares of Sichuan pepper and built 1,200 hectares of bases for sweet cherries, winter peaches, and other characteristic small fruits. It sees various characteristic industries compete for development.

To increase income and get rich

Stabilizing employment, promoting entrepreneurship, and increasing farmers' wage income

"My family of four all work in Anji County, Zhejiang Province, with a monthly income of nearly 20,000 yuan." Yuan Mei's family comes from Shaer Township, Jinchuan County, and has been lifted out of poverty.

Yuan, 44, has two children. Her husband Meng Guoqiang was disabled due to a car accident and unable to complete heavy manual work. The family was identified as a poverty-stricken household in 2016. Yuan's family was lifted out of poverty as they planted over 10 pear trees, and Yuan worked in the Shiwai Liyuan Scenic Area and for agrientertainment.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists decreased, which had a significant adverse impact on Yuan's income.

With the help of Jinchuan County Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, in March 2021, the couple went to a large enterprise in Anji County to pack socks. "The monthly base salary is 3,500 yuan per person, with a meal allowance of 300 yuan. We live in the company's dormitory." Yuan introduced that packing socks is piecework — the more you work, the more you earn.

Jinchuan County has 14,000 migrant workers all year round. "These workers are mainly engaged in construction and logistics, with low requirement for skills and high labor intensity." According to Yang Deyong, Director of the Migrant Workers Service Center of Jinchuan County, to improve people's employment skills, Jinchuan County has been carrying out "one-on-one" skill training with Meishan Engineering and Technician College under the assistance of Meishan Municipal Human Resources and Social Security Bureau. The program is to train welders, electricians, crane operators, excavator operators, etc. Up to now, it has trained more than 200 people.

In addition to migrant workers, local residents are also supported by the local government. Hu Shibin opened a furnishings shop in the county. Where did he, who was just lifted out of poverty, get the start-up capital? "I received entrepreneurship guarantee loans from the local government and an entrepreneurial subsidy of 10,000 yuan."

To further stabilize employment, Jinchuan County has implemented various measures to facilitate the stable employment of individuals affected by poverty. For college students and impoverished households looking to start their own businesses, they can apply for a maximum of 200,000 yuan in guaranteed business loans and are also eligible to receive 10,000 yuan as a start-up subsidy. Currently, Jinchuan County has successfully ensured stable employment for all 23 poverty-stricken individuals and eight university graduates who ventured into entrepreneurship. This achievement means that 100.3% of this year's target task has been accomplished, with a total of 3,673 households having secured jobs.

To provide greater help

Successful rural development: Effective planning leads to livable and business-friendly villages

Entering Erpulu Village in Kalajiao Township, one can see a clean environment. But in the past, the haphazard disposal of feces from livestock presented a considerable challenge to the village's efforts at environmental improvement for its residents.

In response, the Party branch of Erpulu Village has taken up the enhancement of the living environment as a significant initiative to drive rural revitalization. "In the past, we didn't pay much attention to the cleanliness of our living environment. But now, when we go out to graze our livestock, we all bring shovels and promptly deal with the feces," said villager Ren Zhen.

The changes in Erpulu Village are attributed to the initiative to create livable, business-friendly, and beautiful communities in Jinchuan County.  Jinchuan County has centered its efforts on the "Five Beautification Standards for Rural Development," which encompass achieving beauty in community planning, industries, environmental quality, lifestyles, and social norms. As a pivotal approach, it has undertaken the enhancement of rural living environments and the enhancement of rural ecological surroundings. This transformation towards a more eco-friendly and liveable environment has been realized through a waste management system involving household-level sorting, village-level collection, township-level transportation, and regional-level processing in 16 villages spread across 9 townships.

In December of last year, the Implementation Program for Rural Construction Actions in Sichuan Province was issued. Enhancing the livability and business friendliness of rural areas was the new imperative for Jinchuan County.

In the office of the Rural Revitalization Bureau of Jinchuan County, the reporter had the opportunity to view the overall plan for rural revitalization in Jinchuan County from 2023 to 2027. "In May of this year, our planning was successfully completed. We invited professionals from the China Academy of Art who effectively incorporated Jinchuan's unique characteristics and applied the experience of the Green Rural Revival Program throughout the planning and design process," explained Li Xiangquan, Director of the Rural Revitalization Bureau of Jinchuan County. According to the plan, the county has been divided according to local conditions into the Shiwai Liyuan Rural Complex, the Jiarong Tibetan Cultural Tourism Area, the Clean Energy Demonstration Base, and the Modern Agricultural Area with Ecological Fields. This industrial layout aims to create one distinctive feature for each zone.

Among them, the Shiwai Liyuan Rural Complex is located in the wide valley of the plateau, serving as both an urban area and an area for integrated rural-urban development. This area accounts for 16% of the county and is home to 48% of the population, making it a hub for both industry and population. It will focus on the development of specialty agriculture, agricultural and sideline product processing, cultural tourism, and other industries.

Jinchuan County not only draws inspiration from Zhejiang's experience in planning but also, as a county receiving paired-up assistance from Anji County in Zhejiang Province, has adopted the "Liangshan Cooperative" model from Anji County. In this regard, Jinchuan County has established the "Liangshan Cooperative" to integrate its ecological resources, facilitating unified planning, storage, and development of ecological resources across the entire county.

Gajian Lawn is the first project of the "Liangshan Cooperative" in Jinchuan, located in Jiemu Village, Hedong Township. It is surrounded by lush green hills on all sides, making it an ideal location for developing the camping industry.  The "Liangshan Cooperative" in Jinchuan has been actively managing and storing resources from the Gajian Lawn. It successfully established a connection with relevant companies and attracted the attention of a tourism company in Anji County, which invested 1 million yuan for the preliminary development and construction of the project. In 2022, the Gajian Lawn camping base project in Hedong Township was opened to the public, receiving 2,000 visitors per month and providing jobs for more than 10 locals. "The village's collective economy has increased its income by 22,000 yuan," Deputy Mayor of Hedong Township, Yi Dechuan, explained.

"Moving forward, we will aim to make building the 'largest pastoral complex in Northwestern Sichuan' as our focus," said Li Xiangquan. "We will enhance the rural infrastructure and public service systems and cultivate a batch of demonstration villages with 'small and unique products, refined and beautiful industries, and concentrated layouts.' We aim to accelerate the development of a pattern where one village leads several villages and multiple villages develop together. This will fully release the multiplier effect of the rural economy and pave a unique path for rural revitalization in Jinchuan."

Reporter's Notes

Safeguarding the counties that receive assistance

While touring Jinchuan, the reporter witnessed the development of a key county designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization. Jinchuan County's rural revitalization plan had left a deep impression on him.

Jinchuan County is advancing an overall plan for rural revitalization, creating a comprehensive county-wide strategy. Each of the four areas has its own distinctive features in terms of industrial development. Once a plan is established, a clear path for development emerges. This is an experience that many key counties receiving assistance can learn from.

As the person in charge of the Sichuan Provincial Rural Revitalization Bureau has stated, key counties designated to receive assistance for rural revitalization are not only the main battleground for consolidating and expanding the achievements in poverty alleviation but also the areas where shortcomings need to be addressed for the comprehensive revitalization of rural areas. By effectively promoting development in the supported areas, we grasp the key to enhancing endogenous development momentum in poverty-stricken regions.

Counties serve as a vital bridge connecting urban and rural areas and play a crucial role in promoting urban-rural integration. When the local economy of a key county receiving assistance is robust, it empowers poverty-stricken villages to drive their development forward. How does it develop? The strategy involves strengthening the dominant industries in the county, vigorously promoting unique rural industries, and actively expanding and empowering new rural collective economies. This approach facilitates the integration of the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors, ultimately achieving comprehensive development across the entire value chain.

Most of the key counties to be helped in rural revitalization are located in remote areas; is it difficult to develop industries? The answer is "yes". In response, key counties receiving assistance must make effective use of various resources and mechanisms, such as East-West cooperation, paired-up assistance, targeted assistance, and support from civil society. They should seek external support while unlocking their own potential for breakthroughs. This involves attracting new ideas, talent, funds, technology, and other essential elements to enhance their development awareness, broaden their development horizons, ignite intrinsic motivation, address development weaknesses, nurture new economic growth points, and continuously reduce development disparities.

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