Guo Houzhen, a resident of Dong Village, holds a Chinese knotweed root from his field in May 2017. [Photo: China Plus/Wang Lei]
While 10% of its population still lives under the official poverty line, Dong Village in eastern China's Jiangxi Province is being hailed as an ideal location to grow Chinese knotweed, a profitable herb.
Local farmers have begun exploring the new opportunity with resounding success in improving their standard of living.
Now is a busy time for farmers in Dong Village, as early summer is the optimal time to plant Chinese knotweed, an herb that is believed to have considerable health benefits. As such, it has significant demand in China.
Only three years ago, local farmer Guo Honggang was living below the poverty line, relying on subsistence farming of rice on his small plot of land and living off the meager income it provided. He has since switched to growing Chinese knotweed and is now hiring additional help to care for his crops.
"I am growing Chinese knotweed on more than 87 mu of land, some of which are mine and some are rented. At our busiest, around 70, 80 people work on my plot. When I was growing rice, I could make 400 or 500 yuan per mu of land, but I can make 3,000 to 4,000 yuan per mu growing knotweed," explained Guo.
A close-up of a Chinese knotweed root from the field of Guo Houzhen, a local resident of Dong Village in Jiangxi Province. [Photo: China Plus/Wang Lei]
Chinese knotweed is a perennial herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its leaves, stems and roots have been used to treat ailments ranging from anaemia, insomnia and prematurely greying hair.
Lin Jiawei, a businessman from Guangdong, is an investor in the village's knotweed farms. He was the person who introduced the idea of growing the herb in Dong Village. He said the nutrient-rich soil in the village is ideal for growing the plant.
"In 2014, we surveyed the soil in several provinces to grow medical herbs. When we came to Dong Village, the locals said their soil is rich in selenium, which was supported by our test results. That was a wonderful surprise. Herbs grown in soil rich in selenium have been shown to produce additional health benefits, such as antioxidant, anti-aging and anti-radiation qualities, as well as the ability to strengthen immunity," said Lin.
Chinese knotweed is seen in Dong Village in east China's Jiangxi Province in May 2017. [Photo: China Plus/Wang Lei]
Lin Jiawei said when he came to Dong Village in 2014, much of the land was left uncultivated, with many of the young people having left their village to find work elsewhere.
Now a co-op has been established to help the farmers grow the herb collectively, with investment from a local government fund earmarked for poverty alleviation. Back in March, farmers in Dong Village also established a processing plant for their produce, which has helped to better preserve the freshness of the herbs.
Additionally, the farming of Chinese knotweed has provided part-time job opportunities for local laborers, who have earned extra income from working in the fields. Hiring preference is given to those in the most financial need.
Farmers plant Chinese knotweed in Dong Village, east China's Jiangxi Province, in May 2017. [Photo: China Plus/Wang Lei]
Guo Yihuang, a village official, says the effort to grow knotweed is just getting started.
"I am confident that we can create a better life for our people by making better use of our unutilized land and labor resources. We will also invite more members of the low-income families to join our efforts. We strive to become a village that is known for high quality Chinese knotweed," said Guo.