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Profits mushroom to beat poverty in Leishan

China Daily,May 11, 2020 Adjust font size:

Yu Guozhu's house is packed not with furniture and domestic appliances but mushrooms.

Stacks of mushrooms cover the first floor of his stilted house in Yeli Village in the county of Leishan, Southwest China's Guizhou province. The county is known for its ethnic Miao culture, with the Miao people accounting for more than 91 percent of its population.

"I started growing mushrooms in my house last year," said Yu, 70, of the Miao ethnic group. "I have been a farmer all my life, and I used to grow rice and vegetables in the fields."

Yu is among more than 280 rural families in the county that have shaken off poverty by growing mushrooms inside their houses.

Yu and his wife live in a two-story house known as a stilted house, a particular wood building of the Miao people. The house was built more than a decade ago.

"We have seven family members, but my sons and daughters are working in better-paying jobs in big cities. I live with my wife on the second floor of the house," Yu said. "The first floor is used for stocking farming tools."

Starting in August last year, at the suggestion of local officials, Yu began to grow mushrooms on the first floor of the house.

"Because I had no experience, I made less than 3,000 yuan ($423) last year," Yu said. This year, he planted more mushrooms.

The first floor of Yu's house is about 70 square meters, where four wood frames stand. Each frame has six layers, and each layer is filled with mushrooms.

"He can pick about 0.5 kg of mushrooms from every mushroom strain each time, and he can harvest from each strain four times in total," said village official Yang Xiaosheng, who introduced the mushroom business to Yu to help the family out of poverty. The purchasing price starts at 5 yuan per kg, Yang said.

"This year Yu can make at least 10,000 yuan," Yang said.

The in-house mushroom business is booming in the locality.

"Most Miao people live in two-story stilted houses," Yang said. "In the past, people mostly used the first floor to stock extra domestic items, and there was still a lot of unused space."

As most young people have gone to big cities for better-paying jobs, Yang came up with the mushroom idea to help the left-behind senior people earn some extra income.

The in-house business has a lot of benefits, Yu said.

"I made the wood frames myself, and they cost only a little more than 500 yuan," Yu said. "Besides, it is easy and convenient to look after the mushrooms in my own house."

Guizhou is a place with a lot of precipitation, but Yu does not have to worry about rainstorms or hail affecting the mushrooms at night because "they are just downstairs".

The local government has arranged technical staff to help farmers like Yu to grow the mushrooms more efficiently. They also helped install a surveillance system over the mushrooms.

"The system oversees the mushrooms' conditions properly," said village official Yang. "If the temperature goes too high or too low, or if it gets too damp, the system will ring the alarm to the technical staff on their computers." When technical staff receive the alarm, they will provide professional guidance to the farmers on the phone or by calling or texting or visiting their homes.

To help with sales, the county government formed a cooperative, which not only provides the mushroom strains to the farmers but also purchases the mushrooms from them. They also process the mushrooms into a variety of related products.

Riding on Yu's success, the county government plans to introduce the business model to more than 100 Miao villages in Leishan.

"We have entered the picking season, and I am busy every day," said Yu. "The cooperative people frequently come over to buy the mushrooms."

Yu said he has mastered the techniques behind mushroom cultivation, and that he is confident of reaping a bigger harvest to live a better life.

"I am so happy that we can make money just by staying at home," he said.

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