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.