Poor Guizhou county introduces online businesses to boost villagers out of poverty

By Chen Qingqing in Huishui Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/7 19:18:39

Connecting countryside commerce

More and more villages in China have embraced e-commerce to boost their local economies, and the e-commerce boom is helping to alleviate rural poverty in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, one of the poorest regions in the country. Internet giants such as Alibaba Group Holding and JD.com Inc have responded to the central government's call to fight poverty by setting up service centers in rural areas. The centers are run independently by local entrepreneurs, who sell locally produced agricultural products. The Global Times recently visited one service center in Huishui county, an hour's drive from provincial capital Guiyang, to see how those online businesses operate and what role they play in poverty reduction.

Mao Lingyue sorts agricultural products at an e-commerce service center she runs in Haohuahong village in Huishui county, Southwest China's Guizhou Province. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

About 30-minute drive from Huishui county, which is administered by the Bouyei-Miao Autonomous Prefecture of Qiannan in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, Haohuahong village was once famous for the folk songs of the Bouyei ethnic minority group.

Today, the village has a new identity: the center of the region's e-commerce businesses.

At the edge of the village, a row of three-story houses stood behind a sign that read "e-commerce district." The first floors of those buildings have been leased to companies that run e-commerce businesses. The goal of the district is to lift local residents out of poverty while helping them make money as Internet penetration continues to grow across China.

However, only one company was open on a recent Thursday afternoon. The company works with local collective industries and villagers to help them sell local products on platforms such as Taobao.

The place looked deserted - unlike a few days earlier, when a media delegation visited. Dozens of reporters had descended on local business owners, who spoke about how online platforms were changing local villagers' lives.

"They all went out to be trained how to run small and medium-sized enterprises," said Mao Lingyue, who works for the e-commerce company Nongxiang.

"Some of them have just started running an e-commerce business, so they still have so much to learn," ­Mao told the Global Times on Thursday.

Mao noted that her company is also operating as one of Alibaba's rural service centers in the village.

The 26-year-old entrepreneur is in charge of running the company's online shop on taobao.com and a WeChat shop to sell agricultural products such as rice, oranges, peanuts and smoked bacon.

"It is also part of strategy that ­Alibaba and the local government have implemented to get local products out to the rest of the country," she said.

In 2014, Chinese Internet giant Alibaba Group Holding announced it would spend 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) to build 100,000 service centers in rural areas over the following three to five years.

As of March 25, 2016, it had established rural service centers in about 16,000 villages in 29 provinces. The centers are all operated by independent local entrepreneurs, according to Alibaba's website.

Alibaba has shown great interest in investing in Guizhou, one of the poorest provinces in the country, where there were 4.9 million people living in poverty in 2016.

A crucial tool

Nongxiang has set up a procurement department, which sources products from both individuals and collective rural companies in Huishui county.

The county was home to 15,504 households and 51,371 people as of July 2016, according to the local government's website.

The number of local residents living below the poverty line accounted roughly about 13 percent of the county's total population.

The provincial government set the poverty line at an annual net income of 2,300 yuan in 2016, roughly 6.30 yuan per day.

Since the launch of the online stores in September 2016, ­Nongxiang has earned 400,000 yuan in revenue, Mao noted.

"The local government provided us this office in the district for free, and we occasionally hold training sessions to teach villagers how to sell their products online," she said.

Another reason for setting up an e-commerce district in Haohuahong is that it has become a popular tourist destination because of its ethnic cultures, said a local official surnamed Luo.

"The more tourists who come to the village, the more money will be spent here," he told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that once villagers get connected to the Internet, offline sales will help their online businesses grow.

Besides Alibaba, other e-commerce companies, such as jd.com and gznw.gov.cn - an e-commerce platform run by the local government - have entered the region. They have set up 257 rural e-commerce service centers, according to a document the local government sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

From January to October 2016, county businesses have rung up 816 million yuan in online transactions, making e-commerce an important tool for lifting rural residents out of the poverty.

Making a better life

Luo Haili, a 20-year-old villager who used to live in Wangyou village in the remote mountains in Huishui, has been resettled in a new community on the outskirts of the county, thanks to a series of poverty alleviation policies. 

"I don't have to walk two hours to leave the mountains anymore," she said, noting that she got a new job working in a handmade crafts workshop, where she can earn up to 2,000 yuan a month.

"Some of the products we make end up for sale on Mao's online stores," she told the Global Times on Thursday.

Due to the deteriorating environment, dozens of households from Luo's home village have been resettled in this new community since the beginning of 2016. For instance, they had struggled to get access to drinkable water.

The move is part of the local government's "resettle people to fight poverty" strategy.

"Moving out of the mountain is the first step, but making a better life for them is more important," the local official said, explaining that workshops have been set up in the community to create jobs for the relocated population.

Luo noted that the workshop allows some workers to have a flexible schedule. For example, some might work a day shift at a nearby factory and then embroider products at night.

"By selling those products on Taobao, we've started a new life here," Luo said.


blog comments powered by Disqus