Wang Yingliang, a farmer in his late 60s who suffers from foot dysplasia, is a member of an ethnic Lisu farming community in China that for generations has endured hardship amid snow clad mountains, cut off from the fruits of the digital economy — until now.
Wang is one of many farmers in the remote Laowo village of Yunnan province who joined a cooperative initiated by Chinese e-commerce company Pinduoduo (PDD) as part of its poverty alleviation initiative, Duo Duo Farm, which was launched in April 2019 in partnership with the Yunnan provincial government.
Pinduoduo has committed over 100 million yuan to the initiative, which will help 74 poverty-stricken counties in 13 prefectures of Yunnan province. PDD aims to launch 100 Duo Duo Farm projects in Yunnan over the next 5 years and groom 10,000 locals with e-commerce know-how.
Working together with agronomists and local governments, Duo Duo Farm takes an innovative integrated approach that addresses the value chain from upstream to downstream, beginning with the organization of farmers, what and how farmers plant and how they sell to the end market. Each Duo Duo Farm has its own tailored solution, taking into account local conditions.
Taking the Laowo farm as an example, 132 households in Laowo village have become beneficiaries of Duo Duo Farm by joining the cooperative supported by PDD, which provides them with an annual dividend and also gives them a say on major decisions relating to the farm.
The cooperative members have also received training from agronomic experts, who recommended they grow late-maturing mandarin oranges alongside citrons as these are well-suited to Laowo’s location in a mountain gorge. The experts also introduced Israeli drip irrigation technology to the farmers, which can save labour and increase productivity. After observing and following the experts’ demonstration of how to grow the citrus fruit and use the irrigation tools, the farmers will then take the reins and put into practice what they have learnt under the experts’ supervision.
In tandem with the agronomic training, PDD also provides the farmers with e-commerce training, so that they are equipped with the skills to sell directly to consumers. This is a key component of ‘cloud agriculture’, whereby farmers can address a wider geographical base of consumers by going from the very first mile to the consumers at the very last mile, in so doing capturing more value in the supply chain.
In recent years, many educated youths have also chosen to return to their hometowns to settle down and start their own businesses, making them perfect candidates to become New Farmers, who are more digital-savvy and entrepreneurial and can lead traditional farmers in their village like Wang on their e-commerce journey.
“We’ve groomed about 86,000 New Farmers who are operating on our platform and are basically revitalizing the countryside through their own individual enterprises,” said Xin Yi Lim, Senior Director of Corporate Development at PDD, who met Wang and other farmers during a site visit to Laowo last year.
“They get trained in various aspects of running an e-commerce business on our platform, so we do a combination of both online as well as offline training so they can learn things like basic accounting, understanding revenues and costs, and then how do they make sense of analytics,” said Lim, adding that some of these young entrepreneurs also get educated on digital marketing techniques, such as how to improve conversion rates. “So these are things that are relatively more specialized and (they) perhaps need a bit more guidance on, but it’s crucial for the farmer to learn how to market effectively.”
As one of China’s largest online agricultural platforms with 628 million active users, PDD can also give farmers insights about producing, packaging and pricing products. With real time data, the company can also work with logistics providers to streamline the supply chain from farm to table.
All these elements work to put more economic power in the hands of the farmers, who traditionally lacked access to technology or information about the market. Duo Duo Farm seeks to bridge this gap by bringing technology to the farmers, whether it be through the tailored recommendations of agronomists, widening their access through e-commerce, or by giving them a taste of leading technologies like IoT and machine learning through our Smart Agriculture Competition.
Top technological talent from around the world are currently competing with traditional farmers to grow strawberries remotely, and the winning team will receive research funding from the Pinduoduo Agritech Research Fund as well as support from PDD to implement their technical solution at a Duo Duo Farm.
PDD’s underlying belief is that there is still plenty of low-hanging fruit when it comes to increasing productivity and improving farmer livelihoods in China, with digitization and human capital development being central catalysts for sustainable development. With lessons gleaned from the different Duo Duo Farms in Yunnan, PDD has set its sights on establishing 1,000 Duo Duo Farms across China in future.