Sisters Return to Village to Promote Rural Revitalization

 December 20, 2023

Sisters Return to Village to Promote Rural Revitalization

A young woman, who is wearing glasses and operating an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in a rice field (in Shihu, a village in Zengcheng, a distirct in Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province), is eye-catching. She is Shen Xiaofen, a native of the village. In addition to the UAV, she can skillfully operate various agricultural vehicles, including transplanters and harvesters. 

Shen Xiaofen and her older sister, Shen Yanfen, are co-owners of Shixiang Agricultural Machinery Cooperative (in the village). Both women were born during the 1990s. Under the sisters' guidance, the cooperative has achieved full mechanization of rice production, cultivation, management and harvesting during the past three years. The women have helped residents of four villages (in Zengcheng) attain wealth by growing rice on 3,000 mu (200 hectares) of land.

Shen Canxing, the sisters' father, is one of the agricultural-equipment operators in Zengcheng. In 2009, he established the cooperative. At that time, Shen Xiaofen was studying sports operations and management at Guangdong Vocational Institute of Sport, while Shen Yanfen was working in advertising in Shenzhen (a city in Guangdong). As he grew older, Shen Canxing began to hope his daughters would return home and take the "baton" (of promoting the development of the cooperative) from him.

Unlike many university graduates, who sought opportunities to develop their careers in cities, in which they completed their university studies, the sisters chose to return to their village to promote its rural revitalization. In 2018, a short time after she graduated from the institute, Shen Xiaofen returned to Shihu, and she studied how to operate agricultural equipment under her father. Two years later, Shen Yanfen quit her job in Shenzhen and returned home. Within a short time, she took over the cooperative.

Sisters Return to Village to Promote Rural Revitalization

In addition to studying how to operate various types of agricultural equipment from their father, the sisters put much effort into studying agricultural business models. They introduced technologically advanced agricultural equipment to the cooperative, to improve production efficiency.

Shen Xiaofen won second prize, in the Guangzhou Division, during the 2021 Guangdong rice harvester operation skills competition. She was the only woman competitor from Guangzhou. "Aside from being a woman, I'm no different from other agricultural equipment operators," says Shen Xiaofen.

After taking over the cooperative, Shen Yanfen realized, to develop modern agriculture, it was insufficient to understand how to promote crop production and prevent pests from invading the plants. It was crucial, she quickly realized, that she also learn marketing strategies. Using her previous work experience to promote her agricultural work, she implemented advanced technologies, established a digital management system, and expanded full-process agricultural mechanization services. She also established her own brand — Si Miao Mi — for the rice produced by the cooperative.

Although neither of the sisters majored in an agriculture-related discipline, they brought changes to the cooperative, with their innovative business ideas. Shen Canxing is pleased to note the gratifying changes.

Sisters Return to Village to Promote Rural Revitalization

In recent years, Guangdong has devoted much effort to promoting restoration of abandoned farmland. The province has also promulgated policies aimed at promoting intensive, large-scale land transfers. Supported by the policies, Shen Yanfen hatched a rehabilitation-management plan. The cooperative has signed a contract with the village to cultivate rice on more than 1,000 mu (66.67 hectares) of land. As a result of the members' efforts, the local farmers have reaped a bumper harvest of rice annually in recent years.

In May 2021, the sisters collaborated with several agricultural machinery cooperatives, in Shihu's neighboring villages and towns, to establish Zengcheng Star-rated Agricultural Machinery Cooperative, the first of its kind in Guangzhou. So far, the cooperative has helped more than 1,800 rural families (in Zengcheng) cultivate rice on more than 100,000 mu (6,666.67 hectares) of land.

Given Shen Yanfen, Shen Xiaofen and other young members' efforts to improve the cooperative's work efficiency, the enterprise has taken on a new look. 

The sisters' decision to return home has changed the trajectories of their lives. Shen Xiaofen believes rural revitalization will provide a great platform for young people to develop their careers. 

Earlier this year, Shen Yanfen was elected a deputy to the 14th National People's Congress, China's national legislature. She is a typical example of numerous rural youths who return to their homes to promote their hometowns' agricultural development. She vows to lead the cooperative's members in helping rural residents (in Zengcheng) increase rice production. 


Photos Supplied by VCG 

Sources: Xinhua and Nanfang Daily

(Women of China English Monthly November 2023 issue)


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