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Village industry leader spearheads Morchella poverty alleviation project in Chongqing by Liu Yizhou,July 29, 2020 Adjust font size:

March is usually the Morchella mushroom harvest season at Lianhua village of Sanyi township in Pengshui county, Chongqing municipality. Farmers are often busy harvesting, sorting, and packing the crops in and around the 19 greenhouses that currently stand on the sides of the mountains that run through the region.

We sell our Morchella mushrooms to consumers for about 10 yuan (US$1.41) each,” said Hou Chunjun, the industry leader, while leading the way through a greenhouse. 

Hou spearheaded the poverty alleviation project in the depths of the Wuling mountains that has resulted in “300,000 yuan (US$42,270) of revenue per ha” two years ago and has continued working there ever since.

Sanyi is one of the 18 townships that are in extreme poverty in Chongqing. The steep terrain and inconvenient transportation in the area made it difficult for the village to eradicate poverty via industry until recently.

“Competent leaders can make it possible for poor farmers to escape from poverty quickly,” explained Sanyi poverty reduction team leader Wang Zuxun. He mentioned that several rounds of market research were conducted before the decision was made to pursue Morchella cultivation in Lianhua. Wang also noted that Hou was originally growing the mushrooms elsewhere and was successful, flexible, and good at managing his operation, so he was asked to lead the village’s poverty eradication project.

Hou was moved by the sincerity of the officials from Sanyi and found the preferential policies that are in place to be useful as well. He decided to move to Lianhua and invest in a standardized Morchella cultivation base there. The Sanyi township government helped him apply for poverty alleviation funding so that Morchella industry infrastructure could be developed.

Hou has been working with Morchella mushrooms for many years and is very familiar with the industry. “Lianhua is located in a remote area, and the transportation is not convenient, so there wouldn’t be any comparative advantage if we only grew the crop,” he explained. Hou, therefore, decided to extend the industry chain and add value by processing the crop in the local area in order to make Sanyi’s Morchella sector more profitable and competitive.

Lianhua’s Morchella industry has flourished as a result of Hou’s expertise and dedication over the last two years. A breeding room, greenhouses, processing factory, and other facilities have been constructed. The sector has taken shape, and products such as Morchella noodles and canned Morchella soup have successfully been developed.

Hou was chosen as a village industry leader by the Sanyi government and Party committee last October as a result of his success with Morchella mushrooms.

“I felt a sense of honor and responsibility when I was appointed,” Hou commented. He mentioned that he needed to shift gears from thinking about only himself and his goals to applying his business skills to helping an entire village develop its Morchella industry so its residents could increase their incomes.

Hou worked on a new income stream with some of the officials working in Lianhua and Sanyi in 2019. They converted some of the industrial poverty alleviation funding that they have access to into shares for Lianhua’s collective and its residents. The industry leader explained: “The arrangement made it possible for us to issue dividends for the first time last year. More than 30,000 yuan (US$4,230) was distributed, and other income streams are being generated as well.”

Morchella mushrooms need to grow for five months before they are ready to be picked. More than 30 of Lianhua’s residents earned a total of about 150,000 yuan (US$21,150) by performing tasks such as breeding, planting, harvesting, and drying last year.

Jian Chunrong is a 63-year-old resident of Lianhua who used to be impoverished but now earns more than 2,000 yuan (US$282) per month by participating in the industry. “My husband and I are both involved with the project and work near our home,” she said with a smile.

Hou commented on recent developments that have occurred in the village and stated: “We have been harnessing technology in order to add innovation to our poverty reduction efforts. Doctoral candidates from Yunnan province were invited to help improve our soil with biological agents, and we have received special Morchella strains for free as well.” He also mentioned that local farmers can grow Morchella mushrooms on their own if they want to and his company will buy them. The system will provide another source of income for local farmers.

When asked about his plans for this year, Hou replied: “The next step in the development of our Morchella industry was delayed as logistics were temporarily blocked as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and our processing equipment for a new product that we planned to launch this year was unable to be delivered in time. Government policies have helped us a lot during this critical period, however.”

Pengshui county’s commerce authorities recently developed an e-commerce platform known as Pengshui Market. It provides useful marketing services, and local companies can use it for free. Hou commented: “Targeted marketing campaigns have made it possible for us to sell more than 700 packs of Morchella noodles on our busiest days. The county e-commerce platform has certainly increased our sales.”

“Rural poverty eradication requires leaders with initiative and good ideas,” Pengshui Party Secretary Qian Jianchao noted. “Pengshui has provided policy support in recent years, and each of its towns has been able to hire six industry leaders like Hou for its villages.” He stated that they are an important part of the poverty reduction and rural revitalization endeavors and that more and more of them are coming to work in the countryside.”




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