2017-04-19 16:33:58 Editorial
"We are farmers but we will travel to the Netherlands by the end of the year." For Chinese farmer, Li Jianping, this is his one goal for 2017.
“Chinese tourists” are famous for flocking to Europe in huge numbers with their large purchasing potential and desire. However, these farmers from Northwest China will travel to Europe for different reasons, to study new agricultural technologies being used by farmers outside of China.
Li Jianping from Shangdu County, Wulanchabu, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Regionis one of these men who will focus on learning new techniques abroad. It is a poor county compared to other areas of China. In 2016, the average annual income after tax for the local farmers and herdsmen was 8549 yuan (£967).
After graduating from junior high, Li Jianping took up farming. Within only a few years, he had already escaped the poverty line thanks to new farming methods. "Now we rely entirely on new technology and machinery to help us do our job," Li Jianping says.
With his above average annual income, Li developed a hobby for travelling. In 2013, he took a trip to Thailand, his first time abroad, which cost around 10,000 yuan (£1000）a tenth of his annual income that year which amounted to 100,000 yuan (£10,000).
It was during this trip that he realised that most of his pesticides come from abroad, he was curious about other countries and regions farming techniques,so he could learn from other farmers abroad.
"The gap of communication between us and other countries is too large," Li Jianping told the China News Service. He was deeply impressed by Germany’s farming skills when he visited the country in 2016, "Their methods are very scientific. They grow crops according to plans aimed at harvesting certain quantities; it is all thought-out and planned in advance. Furthermore, the crops are all unaffected by pollution as they understand and have good control of the pesticides and fertilizers they use.”
"We are broadening our horizon and encouraged to grow crops with the help of science, not nature, investing a large amount in technologies and foreign products," Li Jianping says.
During these trips, Li Jianping noticed that foreign farmers always try their best to protect their soil．Thus, he began to use better quality fertilizers to also protect his land."I have spent more than 60,000 yuan on fertilizer alone over the past 4 years, and it did improve the quality of the soil, so in my mind, it was money well spent.”
"I really want to try and make friends with these foreigners," Li Jianping said, "Every time I go abroad, I'm eager to chat with these people who share the same passion as I. However, due to language barriers, we could only communicate using translations."
Li Jianping is not the only farmer who is looking outside the box. Chen Yi from Wuchuan County, 300 km away from of Shangdu County, is also exploring travel for learning these days. But, 42-year-old Chen Yi isn’t going to Germany; he is visiting the United States.
"Everyone is trying to learn from science and new technologies; I can’t afford to fall behind my competition." Chen Yi says. He often collects information about the American agriculture industry in his spare time, and studies English to understand the reports. "Obviously, I can’t catch the essence of their technology within a few days, but travelling abroad and seeing other farmers’ crops and land is very helpful in making a difference to mine."
China is a big player in the agriculture industry. By the end of 2015, the number of people living in rural areas surpassed 600 million, regions where Xi Jinping is focusing the Chinese government’s poverty alleviation policy.
“After going abroad, you can compare your farming and developments to those of other farmers, and then assess where you can improve," Li Jianping says, "I am only 51 years, I am still a strong labor force in our village. I can improve my future and that of the village."