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Returnee grows successful business

By HOU LIQIANG | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-01-14 08:56
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Jia Zhao poses in front of a truck carrying olives in Longnan.

Like many of his peers in Longnan, Gansu province, Jia Zhao left his hometown to become a migrant worker after he failed to gain entry to a university.

However, while the vast majority of those young people opt to stay away from Waina, a village deep in the mountains that is so isolated it has no mobile phone reception, the 28-year-old decided to return. Now, he devotes himself to the cultivation of olive trees.

In 2011, Jia followed in the footsteps of many senior high school graduates by traveling to Guangdong province and working on the production line at an electronics factory.

Even though he sometimes worked more than 10 hours a day, he could only earn about 3,000 yuan a month. In 2012, desperate to change his life, Jia returned to his hometown and started a chicken farm with small loans offered by the local government.

Just a year later, though, he was bankrupt. "I lacked the necessary educational background and had no one to help me learn about raising poultry," he said. He added that some of his chickens died and he failed to collect enough eggs to maintain operations.

However, that failure marked the beginning of another life.

With debts of 300,000 yuan, he noticed that the local government was providing free saplings and encouraging farmers to plant olive trees. At the same time, olive oil producers were offering training on planting trees and improving the species.

"Nobody had tried planting olive trees in my village back then, but I believed the business could be profitable as it was promoted by the government," he said.

Now, he has not only paid off his debts but also expanded his initial cultivation area from 0.7 hectares to 7 hectares.

"I can make about 100,000 yuan ($15,490) a year from the business, and I have used the profits to expand the cultivation area," he said, noting that local olive oil producers buy all his fruit, so he doesn't have to worry about selling his yield.

Every year, Jia hires at least 10 people from poor families to work on his farm. Though they only work for about 20 days, helping to control weeds and pick fruit, they earn a combined wage of more than 60,000 yuan, he said.

He said that 180 of the 200 households in the village have planted olive trees, and the total cultivation area covers more than 200 hectares.

The business has transformed the village. All the residents have shaken off poverty, and many have bid farewell to their old adobe houses and built brick homes, he said.

The expansion of olive tree cultivation has seen many parts of the mountains that once had limited vegetation coverage become lush with greenery, Jia said.

He added that the sector is a green industry because Longnan's climate means the trees don't attract bugs, so farmers don't have to use pesticides.

"I'm determined to make constant efforts to develop this business," he said, with a smile.

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