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Transforming Lives in Yangjiafan Village through Orange Farming

May 22, 2018

By Joseph S. Margai from Yichang City, Hubei Province, China

These houses in Yangjiafan were built by farmers out of proceeds from orange sales

Farming in most African countries is regarded as a job for the ‘unfortunate people’ in our communities.

In most cases, one could notice that these ‘unfortunate people’ would apply their efforts in preparing the farmland. They brush, plough, cultivate crops and weed the farm but at the end of the day, they could only harvest what a family of ten could eat for the festive season. This type of farming, according to agricultural experts, is called subsistence farming.

The festive season usually begins in late November and ends in early January. In December, Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Christ (Christmas) popularly known as “the advent season” and in January everyone celebrates the coming of the New Year. This is the period when all the yields from farmers in most African countries will have depleted.

The reason for subsistence farming in most African countries varies, but could it be that our soil is not fertile or can our farmers apply more efforts through the support of the central governments in Africa? Well, we will continue to ask until we get the answers.

As someone coming from a farming family in rural Sierra Leone, it appears to me that our people in rural areas are applying more efforts on the farm with little or no better yield.

Imagine, the entire farming household gets up at 5 a.m. when the cock crows to go and work on the farm and returns to the village at 7 p.m. They spend the entire planting and harvesting seasons on the farm but only harvest what that household could eat for only the festive season. Indeed, what an unfortunate people they are!

In most African countries, officials from the central governments would tell you that they have invested billions of dollars on agriculture but Africans would never go for a week without eating imported rice or other foodstuff.

I could remember vividly a former Member of Parliament in Sierra Leone told me that in one of their oversight visits in the provincial towns, an official of the District Agriculture Office (DAO) told him that 70 percent of the funds that are sent by the central government to them for agriculture are spent on administration – the buying of stationeries, computers, generators, fuel for generators and vehicles for extension workers, among others.

However, in China, the situation is contrary to what obtains in most African countries. The farmers, although they are getting support from both the local and central governments, are using the farming profession to make fortunes.

In Yangjiafan, a village situated in Honghuatao town, Hubei Province, farmers who are mostly engaged in the cultivation of orange fruits have used proceeds from the sales of orange to construct two or more storey houses.

The construction of these houses has transformed Yangjiafan village to a “mini estate” that can be compared to a in some African countries.

I know many people reading this piece might think that I am a bit harsh with African countries, but the reality is that our leaders are not creating the enabling environment for our society to be paradise.

Wu Lianfu, Communist Party of China (CPC) Committee Secretary for Yangjiafan village, said most residents of the village are farmers and they are more into orange and mandarin farming.

“Proceeds from the sales of orange fruits were used to construct these houses. All of the houses have five bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchens, toilets, garages, etc.,” Wu Lianfu continues

But how much quantity of orange would generate a certain amount of money to construct a two-storey house in the village? This was the question I posed to the CPC committee secretary and he wasted no time to reveal that a farmer has to harvest and sell at least 50,000 tons of orange per year for a period of two years to get a two-storey house.

So, in total, a farmer needs to harvest and sell at least 100,000 tons of orange for two years to own a modern house in Yangjiafan.

Are those tons of orange fruits achievable within the stipulated timeframe? Yes, because the Chinese are courageous, hardworking and committed to whatever they do.

According to SFGATE Home Guide, most orange trees bear fruit five years after planting.

But Petros Sagkos, Chief Content Editor of Quora (2017), said if the orange tree is grown from seedlng, you should not expect to harvest a fruit in less than 7-10 years. Like Petros, Anthony Kelly, former arborist at City of Stonnington, said when an orange tree is planted from seedling it will take 7-10 seasons for it to bear fruit.

However, Wu Lianfu said that in Yangjiafan, it takes only three years for the orange tree to start bearing fruits, adding that they harvest the orange fruits once every year.

He revealed that the orange farmers are making a collective sum of 500,000 RMB, over US$78,369 or over Le603 million per year. He noted that they are making frantic efforts to increase the annual collective income to 800,000 RMB.

Currently, Wu continues, we are making an average per capita income of 25,000 RMB per household annually, an amount, he said, they are planning to increase to 30,000 RMB by 2020.

25,000 RMB is equivalent to over US$3,918 or over Le30 million.

Quizzed how much amount of money is required from a farmer to construct a two-storey house in the village, he said a total sum of 307 RMB, over US$48,000 or over Le307 million, is required to get a fully designed and furnished house.

He said the desire to construct the new village project started in 2011 but even though the houses were constructed from the proceeds of the sales of orange fruits, the Chinese government provided improved roads, electricity, and safe drinking water facility, among other facilities for them.

Another group of newly constructed houses where orange farmers inhabit in Yangjiafan
Cross section of the orange plantation in Yangjiafan village, Hubei Province, China

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