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Tale of an 'apple village head'

Updated: 2011-06-27 19:36


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BEIJING - "Wanna be rich? Grow apples; Wanna be super rich? Raise pigs. Wanna be super, super rich? Grow apples and raise pigs." The slogan is worded by Ye Weiqiang, a college graduated "village head," to sell his get-rich "bible" to farmers.

Ye's bible is called "apple-pig circular economy," a simple idea to raise pigs (or cattle) with corn, and grow apples on an organic fertilizer that consists of pig (or cattle) excrement mixed with corn straw so to produce organic fruit.

However, he has a lot of persuading to do before it becomes reality. Apart from the plain-worded slogan he comes up with, he teaches by example.

Ye, 28, is among many college graduates who becomes "college graduated village heads."

China started to recruit college graduates as village officials in 2008.

The Organization Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee set out to employ 100,000 to 200,000 college graduates as village officials over a five-year period from 2008.

At present, there are 209,000 incumbent village officials who are college graduates, according to statistics from the Organization Department.

Being the first college student in his hometown, a small village in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Ye quit his city job to become a "village official" in Yuanzhuang village under the city of Yan'an, Shaanxi province, in 2008.

"The countryside is terribly in want of talents. I myself grew up in a remote and secluded village, so I felt obliged to return to the countryside and make my contribution," says Ye.

Then in early 2009, Ye was sent to the apple growing village of Houkongjia to be the village head's assistant.

After taking office, Ye found that the villagers could widen their apples' sales margins by selling them nationwide.

Ye made several attempts, including promoting the villagers' apples on a national forum for village heads held in Shanxi province, and sending 100 boxes of apples to the city of Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province.

He also visited several supermarkets in Nanjing, such as Walmart, Carrefour and Hualian. After his fieldwork, he found the apples needed to be of very high quality to get into the big-name retailers.

Then he set his mind on organic apples. In order to get more villagers to plant organic apples, he started to practice what he was starting to preach, that is, the circular economy has great benefits.

He leased 30 mu (two hectares) to plant corn, another 30 mu to plant apples and raise 30 cattle. Most importantly he grew the corn and apples and raised the cattle in an organic way.

Gradually, the village's apple farmers followed his steps. They changed from using insecticides to solar pest killing lamps, and from chemical fertilizer to methane fertilizer.

At the end of 2010, the apples harvested on 1,000 mu of orchards in Houkongjia were accredited as organic by evaluation teams sent by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Ye then won full support of the villagers and was elected village head in early 2010. Being a village official gave him the opportunity to put into practice what he learned at college, he says.

"College graduated village heads should stand up to their historical obligation to apply modern knowledge in building a modernized countryside," Ye says.

Luo Yongkuan, professor of Communist Party history with the School of Political Science and Public Administration of Wuhan University, says college graduated village officials not only are a strong force driving the modernization of China's underdeveloped countryside, but will provide strong talents for future CPC cadres.

"Future state leaders might come out of this group of youngsters," says Luo.

The CPC has all along valued grassroots experience of its cadres.  Cai Zhaoli, head of the organization department of the CPC committee of Yan'an City, says letting college graduates run villages is a strategic move of the CPC to optimize its own structure.

Cai says that the well-educated college graduates can be the agents of modernization to drive China's countryside forward.

This year marks the end of term of the first bunch of college-graduated village officials who took office in 2008. They will soon face the choice of running for a second term, applying to be civil servants, starting up businesses or pursuing higher academic degrees.

Ye chooses to take the civil service exam. At the end of 2010, Ye was hired as the assistant to the township head of Panlong Township under Baota District, in the city of Yan'an.

Expecting a brand-new journey in his career, Ye has produced a new "get-rich bible" for Panlong -- to develop revolution-themed tourism.


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