Across China: Uptown girl seeds hope in remote mountains
GUANGZHOU, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Hong Kong-born Annie Leung still remembers her first visit in 2017 to the remote mountains in southwest China's Guizhou Province, with fresh memories of the wild leeks all over the rolling hills.
"At that moment, I felt like I was in a fairy tale," Leung recalled.
Leung's first trip was not for leisure, but to seek business opportunities to aid the poverty-stricken villages of Hezhang County in Wumeng Mountain, where finding work in big cities has long been the only way out of poverty for local villagers.
With a high altitude and a favorable climate, planting flowers soon became the primary focus for the 28-year-old general manager of the Guangzhou-based Ganghua Agricultural Technology Co., Ltd.
In one year since her visit, Leung and a team of professionals traveled around a dozen villages and towns in Hezhang, looking for suitable planting grounds.
She began her plan as the company signed an investment agreement with the county in May 2018 to build a pastoral complex and a flower breeding base, aiming to raise the income of poor local households.
However, it was no easy task for the metropolitan girl raised by a nanny who spent her college years in the United States, where she met many young people from the Chinese mainland and decided to pursue a career back in China.
"At that time, I seldom did chores, let alone work in the fields," she said.
Her journey has not been easy, even with Leung and her team fully prepared. Dialectical and dietary differences discomforted Leung's employees, most of whom were Cantonese.
"There even used to be doubts about the choice," Leung said. "But they disappeared when we saw local officials work day and night to help people in poverty."
Leung worked hard to persuade local farmers to grow flowers with tweezers for better survival rates, rather than traditional crops like potatoes and corn.
They eventually learned that lavender could be used to extract essential oils and make sachets, while coreopsis was used for high-quality scented tea.
Leung's team completed trial planting of more than 30 varieties of chrysanthemums in 2018 and introduced lavender and sakura seeds from Hokkaido. The breeding project has brought over 2 million yuan (about 282,000 U.S. dollars) of income for local rural households.
Ganghua took its products to Guangzhou, where they proved popular at the 27th Guangzhou Fair held last month. Leung is also considering sales on the internet.
The initial success has boosted Leung's confidence. She said she plans to start a demonstration center to inspire more young people from the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to join the poverty-reduction cause.
"Younger generations of Hong Kong should take on the responsibility of helping in the fight against rural poverty," she said.