How youth boosts rural transformation through science
By Yuan Yuan  ·  2023-11-08  ·   Source: Web Exclusive


The Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation: 2023 Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship report is released at the International Forum on Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation held at the United Nations Compound in Beijing on November 6 (COURTESY PHOTO)  

Peng Da, a 28-year-old entrepreneur, is always associated with the water caltrop because his company has created an entire industrial chain for the nut, one of the earliest domesticated crops in China.  

Water caltrops are grown in East Asia for their unusual, edible seed pods. Each dark brown, hard pod contains a white, starchy nut. Rich in dietary fiber, amino acids and minerals such as iodine, the nuts not only have nutritional value, but also can yield health benefits including prevention of thyroid problems and treatment of chapped heels and lips.   

Peng, then an undergraduate student in Huazhong Agricultural University, realized the business potential of growing water caltrops during a summer field trip to Tianjinghu Village of Huanggang City, Hubei Province in 2016. That same year, he founded his company together with some schoolmates, which later has contributed to the development of the village through innovating water caltrop cultivation.  

Despite living in an area where the nut grows abundantly, farmers in Tianjinghu Village, had long struggled to make money from this not-so-common food.  

The group developed new varieties of water caltrop with higher yields and better resistance to diseases. They also adopted new technologies to process the nuts into a range of products, from water caltrop noodles to water caltrop liquor. 

Over the past seven years, the company has provided more than 5,000 local farmers with employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and has created a cumulative output value of more than 100 million yuan ($13.75 million). 

Peng's story was included in the speech of Wang Yi, the executive director of the organizing committee of the World Youth Development Forum Secretariat and executive director of the international department of the All-China Youth Federation, at the International Forum on Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation held in Beijing on November 6.  

Wang said that about 130,000 young Chinese choose to participate in various rural development projects every year, and that young people play an inspiring role in China's rural revitalization. 

Co-hosted by the China Internet Information Center (CIIC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in China, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) China Office, the World Food Programme China, and the Center for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the forum presented experiences and inspiration related to the development and transformation of rural areas available to countries around the world by sharing the innovation and entrepreneurial efforts of youth in China and other developing countries. 

Around 100 representatives of social groups, research institutions, enterprises, government institutions, media, UN agencies and other international institutions from China and abroad, as well as farmers who have benefited from rural development programs and undertakings, attended online and in person. 

Nii Quaye-Kumah, IFAD Country Director and Head of the East Asia Multi-country Office, told the forum that he's seen more and more young people engaging in agriculture or starting businesses in rural areas. He also noted that their use of digital technologies is enabling them to "give full play to their innovation and pioneering spirit."  

This process is injecting new elements and energy into the transformation of traditional agriculture.  

He also pointed out that China's emphasis on nurturing and supporting young and future farmers in its rural revitalization strategy is a necessary part of the process of modernizing and urbanizing smallholder agriculture. "This is a very wise and forward-looking strategic consideration," he added. 

Speaking at the Forum, Tomomi Ishida, Social Protection Officer (Rural Development) of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, noted that young people tend to face unique challenges, which are often more profound than those faced by their adult counterparts, in their efforts to participate productively and effectively. 

"Across the globe, young people are increasingly connected, informed, technologically adept and better educated than any prior generation," she said. 

The Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation: 2023 Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship report was released at the forum, featuring 15 inspiring stories and case studies related to young innovators and entrepreneurs from China and abroad in areas such as digital agricultural machinery, precision agriculture, the connection of smallholder farmers to markets, financial empowerment and South-South cooperation. 

Wang Xiaohui, editor-in-chief of CIIC, indicated at the forum that more global platforms that facilitate exchange and the sharing of experiences related to rural development among young people should be created and that new ideas, approaches and development areas should be pursued. 

Siddharth Chatterjee, UN resident coordinator in China, stated in a pre-recorded video message for the forum that China's people-centered development has led to several accomplishments, including the country's eradication of extreme poverty in late 2020. "The experiences of China offer many potential lessons that can be shared with other developing countries on their paths towards sustainable development," he said.                           

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon  

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