China: Current Programs

Programs in China

Sichuan kiwifruit value chain project

Launched in 2019, the Sichuan kiwifruit value chain project focused on addressing several challenges for agricultural development in Sichuan. Kiwifruit is one of the key cash crops promoted by the government for the southwest part of China. There are three workstreams under this project:

1 - Comprehensive Training Program

People are the fundamental factor driving change. We, therefore, put a lot of resources and emphasis on training, both existing farmers and people not yet in farming. We know that “seeing is believing”, so before we ask smallholders to adopt new solutions, we show them how these work in our demo orchard. We provide training programs that cover the whole life cycle of growing kiwifruit to the local smallholders. We host training in the form of field days, indoor classes, workshops, and key farmers' steering groups.

In addition, we organized a tailored program for the rural youth (under 35 years old), named “the Entrepreneurial Farmer Training Program”. It aims to incentivize and help young people to be devoted to agriculture. We invite experts and professors within the kiwifruit industry to share their knowledge and skills with those young people not only on kiwifruit production but also on business, communicational skills, and entrepreneurship.

Key achievements: we have provided training to 5000 smallholder farmers, and 80 young agri-entrepreneurs from 2019 to 2021. 95% of the participants rated our young agri-entrepreneurs program “greatly positive” from anonymous survey feedback.

2 - Market linkage and high-value cash crops

We understand that if the product of our supported farmers cannot be sold at a good price, then all our efforts in promoting any new technologies or new varieties will not bear fruits. Therefore, we have spent a lot of time trying to connect the smallholders with off-takers such as supermarket retailers. We have also set up pioneer trials for sweet corn and a few vegetables based on the retailer’s specific demands.

Achievement: in 2021, we have helped farmers to sell their kiwifruit to supermarket chain stores. The sweet corn trials went well.

3 - Soil Health 

Soil degradation is a huge challenge in China after millennia of often intense cultivation. Degraded soils are critically low on organic matter; they also lack vigorous micro-bacteria and worms. Fertility is correspondingly low. China has large arable areas officially designated as “poorly-performing land”. We chose a site in this category for our demonstration orchard. We started to establish the orchard in April 2019. Covering 70 mu, it is evenly divided into two blocks. We wanted to enhance one block by building a drainage system, growing cover crops, and introducing good micro-organisms. These measures aim to improve the soil’s physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. Experiences here should enable us to propose proven solutions for better soil health. We are delighted that New Zealand’s Massey University has joined us in these efforts. New Zealand is a world leader in kiwifruit production; Massey is additionally very strong in soil science. A university team will conduct research in conjunction with Huasheng Agriculture Company, Sichuan Provincial Academy of Natural Resource Sciences, and SFSA. We are also discussing cooperation with the Sichuan Agricultural University for additional resources and support.

Achievement: in 2021, our soil health project was 100% externally funded. We successfully held a China-New Zealand soil health virtual conference.

Gansu vegetables project

A vegetable is one of the important agricultural industries in Gulang County and Dingxi City. It has played an important role in improving farmers' income and Rural Revitalization. We and the local agricultural bureaus work together to carry out the following activities to promote the development of the vegetable industry, benefiting many smallholders and increasing their incomes.

Vegetable production technology training: in order to improve the planting technology of vegetable growers, technical training was provided for the growers and technicians in Dingxi and Gulang. The content of technical training includes vegetable cultivation, pest control, and water and fertilizer management. The forms of training include indoor training and field on-site training. More than 5900 people have received training so far.

Support for technicians in the vegetable sector: We support the development of agricultural technicians (progressive farmers) in the resettlement area of Gulang County. They are responsible for the technical services in Xijing Town, Gancheng Town, Hengliang Township, and Xinbao Township, and focus on the demonstration of standardized cultivation technology, assessment, and prevention of diseases and pests, early warning of disastrous weather, farmers' scientific and technological training organization, etc. These technicians supported more than 2000 farmers in the resettlement area to grow vegetables. This is the so-called ‘Train the trainer’ approach. In addition, we also invited technicians from the government vegetable station to visit Shouguan Vegetables Expo and other advanced vegetable growers elsewhere, where exchange with a more advanced vegetable farming system was facilitated. 

Support the introduction of new vegetable varieties - Based on local requests, we introduced over 30 new vegetable varieties for field trials, in both open fields and greenhouses, and provided technical training for farmers. New vegetable varieties such as tomato, pepper, cucumber, spinach, cauliflower, and recently mini pumpkin were introduced. Farmers were encouraged to participate in the field trials, and they were also invited to see the results of other field trials. This helps to screen out high-yield and high-quality vegetable varieties for growers and potentially increase their income. In addition, we support the development and professionalization of the local seedling enterprise, so that vegetable farmers can have access to high-quality seedlings. 

Market linkages - We put great emphasis on good market links for our targeted farmers. We organized for the heads of our supported agriculture cooperatives to visit wholesale markets in major cities to extend the sales channel. We also helped them to establish a booth at the national vegetable exhibition.

Gansu Goji-berry Project

Gulang County is a very dry area, where farmers struggle to grow crops and make a decent income. We support the production and value chain development of goji-berries, a profitable cash crop suited to the local climate.

In 2018, we helped a local agricultural cooperative to establish a 200-mu goji-berry demonstration farm. This offers economic and job opportunities to resettled poor farming households who have moved down from the mountains. The demo farm promotes advanced planting techniques to the surrounding growers. We also conducted a goji‐berry value chain and competitiveness study for the county and organized a sector-wide workshop.

In 2019-20 we focused on expert and technical support to the local cooperative to gain “Green Food Certification”, as well as introducing modern drip irrigation. Building on our work, ChemChina decided to invest over 1 million yuan to help the cooperative build a processing facility in Gulang. This facility helps farmers to earn extra income by selling processed goji-berry products, sold under the new brand “Gu Mo”. Meanwhile, we actively support the sales and market linkage activities of the cooperative through both online and in-store channels. The sales of goji-berry have increased steadily.  

Moreover, we conducted research looking for solutions for tackling goji-berry root rot disease. The root rot bacteria weaken the growth of the Goji-berry plant. The plant turns yellow or even dies, which seriously affects the yield and fruit quality. The disease has caused great damage to the production of Goji-berry in recent years. Together with Gansu Agricultural University, Syngenta, and Gulang County Forest and Fruit Center, we carried out research in 2018 to identify appropriate fungicides to prevent and control the disease. By the end of 2021, our partners completed all the experiments and selected the appropriate chemicals to control the root rot disease. SFSA organized a technical training meeting to recommend the solutions to Goji-berry growers.

Since 2021, we started to cover more fruit crops. Over 1200 fruit growers received technical training to improve their planting techniques. The training includes efficient cultivation management and pest control technology for high-quality pear, greenhouse grape, Goji-berry, and other local fruits. SFSA introduced new grape varieties according to the climatic characteristics of Gulang, with the purpose of enhancing the market competitiveness of greenhouse grapes in Gulang county and increasing the income of farmers.