Suzhou's Zhenze township focuses on modernization to boost incomes of residents
Tourists visit Zhenze township of Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu province on March 14, 2021. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Improving economic vitality is one of the most effective ways of revitalizing the rural areas of the country, a lesson brought home from the experience of Zhenze township of Suzhou in East China's Jiangsu province, said local government officials and business owners.
For instance, Zhong'anqiao, a village in northeastern Zhenze in Wujiang district, has invited experts with advanced agricultural knowledge and skill sets to improve the efficiency of its farm produce.
Wu Jihua, Party secretary of Zhong'anqiao, said there is an ongoing partnership with DJI Agriculture to train villagers on how to operate agricultural drones, which are widely used for crop spraying, seeding and monitoring crop growth.
The village has also introduced agricultural experts — who help the farmers for as long as five to eight years — to train the rural residents with modern agricultural practices.
"We define this process as the training of professional farmers. It is of great importance because technologies and skills are the major drivers of agricultural development at present," Wu said.
Meanwhile, Zhong'anqiao is also striving to develop its green economy to increase the income of its residents, he said.
Zhang Wenxuan, an advertising and marketing expert who was based in Shanghai, moved to Zhong'anqiao village in 2020 to set up his own homestay business.
"The accelerated modernization going on in the rural areas of Suzhou, including Zhenze, has provided much growth potential for new businesses," said Zhang.
Zhong'anqiao, measuring just 4 square kilometers and with a total population of 1,680 people, over the past few years has invested 180 million yuan ($25.52 million) to restore its ecology and push out industries that are not so eco-friendly. This has helped in attracting experts and new businesses, and the efforts have paid off.
During the Labor Day holiday earlier this month, Zhong'anqiao received 40,000 tourists, generating tourism income of 1.5 million yuan, double that of last year, according to Wu.
The village plans to introduce camping and canoeing clubs to further drive up its income from tourism, he said.
The daily turnover of Full Moon Farm Restaurant, which has benefited from the booming tourism industry in Zhong'anqiao, can bring in as much as 20,000 yuan during peak season, said restaurant owner Xu Yuejuan.
Thanks to its various businesses, the average annual income of villagers in Zhong'anqiao has gone up to 40,000 yuan, from 3,000 yuan earlier when they were largely dependent on agricultural income, the village's Party secretary Wu said.
Even people over the age of 60 — like 68-year-old Xu Jinmei — are getting new job opportunities, he added.
Xu works as a barista at a local natural education center during the day, serving visitors coffee with latte art. She also works part-time at the Full Moon Farm Restaurant later on. On average, her annual income reaches 60,000 yuan, said Xu.
Gu Quan, Party secretary of Zhenze township, said farmland transfer has helped to increase local villagers' income and improve their wellbeing.
Partnerships with land resource companies mean spare houses or rooms of local residents are being rented out for business purposes, bringing in an extra 20,000 to 30,000 yuan in annual income to villagers per household, Gu said.
The agricultural cooperatives of the county have also managed to nurture branded agricultural products, such as rice. By teaming up with silk companies in Zhenze, a business model combining production bases, farmers and companies have helped in creating more job opportunities for the rural residents.
"The rural revitalization is eventually realized by economic prosperity and the rising market vitality," Gu said.