Crawfish change struggling farmers' fortunes

By Wang Xiaoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2019-10-16 10:01
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Workers sort crawfish at a trading center in Qianjiang, Hubei province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Liu Zhuquan's advocacy of aquaculture has improved livelihoods in Hubei village

For decades, water has been both a curse and blessing for rice farmers in low-lying villages in Central China's Hubei province. While an intricate web of waterways provides sufficient irrigation for crops, constant flooding makes life precarious for local villagers.

The situation worsened in Baowan village in the early 1970s when a major river was blocked and over 67 hectares of fields were submerged in floodwaters for years.

"Rice farming was a bleak and low-income industry as the waterlogged fields could only yield one crop each year," said Liu Zhuquan, who was born in Baowan in 1962 and migrated to look for jobs in larger cities in the 1980s. In 1998, he returned to take up office as the Party sectary of the village.

By the time he returned, the loss of income had driven many farmers to give up on rice farming, leaving at least 10 hectares of abandoned farmland consumed by sprawling weeds.

Liu, together with an electrician in the village, decided to rent the land after higher-level authorities demanded concerted efforts to restore cultivation on wasted farmland in the region.

"Honestly, I was clueless about what to plant at the beginning," he said, adding that he liked to take strolls around the village in search of a way to generate revenue from the flooded fields.

During one of his daily contemplations, the wild crawfish teeming in shallow ponds caught Liu's attention. At the time, Liu said, crawfish, also known as crayfish, often appeared in brooks and ditches crisscrossing the land and were widely considered an invasive species that harmed crops.

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