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E-commerce park helps keep poverty at bay

By LI WENFANG in Heyuan, Guangdong | China Daily | Updated: 2020-12-05 14:04
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Once a recognized poverty-stricken village, Shuangtou in Yuancheng district, Heyuan, Guangdong province, is seeing more of its younger population back for their entrepreneurial endeavors associated with an e-commerce business park.

Liu Weixiong, 36, is leading his seven younger team members of the park, which was launched in 2017 and incubates startups, provides free and paid training programs and sells farm produce from the village and afar.

"I was the youngest when the park started operations and now I am the oldest," Liu said. Liu came back from Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, in 2014 to help explore e-commerce in the village. He is also the Party chief of the village.

Apart from paying its eight full-time employees salaries, the park has distributed half of its profits to the 33 poverty-stricken families with work-capable members, amounting to 1,000 yuan ($152),2,931 yuan and 3,939 yuan to each of them annually in the past three years.

Other 35 poverty-stricken families have received funds secured from related policies, including subsistence allowances. Covering an area of 2.8 square kilometers, the village has a population of over 3,600.

The park, which is 90 percent held by the village and 10 percent by the Synergy Innovation Institute of the Guangdong University of Technology, Heyuan, has incubated 39 businesses, including those engaged in agriculture, e-commerce and advertising.

The institute helped design the business model of the park. The initial 1.5 million yuan investment into the park came from Kuichong subdistrict office of Shenzhen, an economic hub in Guangdong, which assumed the task of helping lift the village from poverty.

Through the park's online stores, more than 2 million yuan worth of produce was sold last year and over 3 million yuan is expected this year, said Huang Chengwen, director of operations of the park. Huang used to work at a foreign-invested company in Huizhou in the province and joined the team in 2018.

Li Jinxian, 26, who was interning at a printing shop in Shenzhen after graduation, returned to the village in 2017 to help manage village affairs and to care for her mother. Her family was one of the poverty-stricken ones. Her mother was physically incapable of demanding work and the family needed to pay the tuition fee for her young brother.

Now a team member of the park, Li started to manage 27.8 hectares of grape and passion fruit orchards last year. The orchards offer fruit picking programs and sell fruits, with promotion support from the park. She is also leading a fruit cooperative of the village.

The orchards produced 2.4 million yuan in revenue during the first six months of this year. It pays 120 yuan a day to short-term workers during the fruit-bearing seasons.

The e-commerce park is helping connect the orchards to a major tourism company in Heyuan to expand its business.

"The business is getting bigger and I am gaining more capability. I am thinking that I can pursue a higher academic level and take the examination for a public servant position," Li said. Li is decorating a new three-storey house of her family.

The e-commerce park actually serves as a platform for aggregating various resources, including the governmental, academic, market and business resources, Huang said. For example, it helped a farmer register a company and a brand, build sales channels, promote its chickens at major trade fairs in other cities and establish display rooms in Heyuan and Guangzhou. The farmer's business has expanded and employs more workers.

The park also has a testing room for checking the level of heavy metal and pesticide residue in products and works with third-party testing institutions for more sophisticated tests.

Li Yunqing, 27, who came from a poverty-stricken family and had undergone many surgeries for a congenital disease and burns, won the admiration of Zhang Yuechao, who was sent by the Kuichong subdistrict office to the village to help with poverty alleviation.

Li recently received an order for fruits. He contacted the customer and the orchard, arranged the logistics and packed 100 parcels all by himself, Zhang said.

Li is earning 3,000 yuan a month plus commissions from sales. He was enrolled for a part-time program by Heyuan Polytechnic.

E-commerce has drawn the enthusiasm of not only young people, but also older folks. A 50-year-old man received training at the e-commerce park and has been promoting medicinal herbs he picks from mountains through video streaming.

The park was recognized as the first provincial-level business startup facilitating space in a village. Its second phase is being decorated with specialized areas for logistics and product sorting, larger office and display space, and more training rooms. About 30 jobs will be created because of the new phase.

Apart from the income related to the park, the village also reaps earnings from its stake in an industrial park near the village and a Huyuan-based bank, Zhang Yuechao said.

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