China’s Juncao technology alleviates poverty in Africa

Farmers learning to grow oyster mushrooms pose for a picture in front of a Juncao greenhouse in the suburb of Maseru, capital of Lesotho. (Photo by Wan Yu/People's Daily)

Minning Town is a great Chinese TV drama. It vividly mirrors how Juncao, a Chinese-invented technology using grass to grow mushrooms, has helped poverty alleviation, revealing the huge endeavor made by the Chinese in their pursuit of a better life. Team members who joined poverty alleviation with me in the past, as well as their families, are all binge-watching the drama. We are very proud of what we did back then.

Born in a poor rural region in Liancheng County, east China’s Fujian province, I know exactly the hardships that farmers are going through. Therefore, to shatter poverty for them is a long-cherished wish of mine. Grass is trivial and even negligible for most of the people. However, China’s Juncao technology is powerful. It can not only help farmers shake off poverty and prevent dust storms, but also generate electricity and make paper. It is a “magical tool” of global poverty alleviation that brings a hope of sustainable development to developing countries.

When Fujian paired up with Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to help the latter get rid of poverty, Juncao technology officially started working its magic in the autonomous region in northwest China. As the then deputy secretary of the Communist Party of China Fujian Provincial Committee, Xi Jinping was in charge of the assistance program. He charted the course for the pairing assistance, which inspired us very much. The Gobi desert in Ningxia hardly hold any rainwater, so growing crops on it is impossible. Juncao, on which edible fungi can be cultivated, has strong roots, so it’s able to reduce the wind speed and fix moving sand. It is an optimal choice for poverty alleviation.

Under the promotion of Xi, Juncao technology has been exported to many underdeveloped countries and regions. Based on the successful experience we made in Fujian-Ningxia pairing assistance, we sent experts to foreign villages and even families, taking impoverished people in the aid-receiving countries as the major target of our services. In South Africa and Lesotho, we specifically tailored an innovative fungi-planting method for smallholders by which 1.2 tonnes of mushrooms can be produced each year on just 10 square meters of land. This method has made production possible for farmers who lost their land and impoverished urban residents. Juncao technology is a bridge linking Chinese-foreign poverty reduction cooperation, contributing Chinese schemes and wisdom.

To reduce poverty through technologies is to nurture an endogenous power in the impoverished, which helps minimize the reoccurrence of poverty. As a measure of targeted poverty alleviation, Juncao technology aims to eliminate poverty from the source. If the technology is compared to a fish, in our assistance we not only give the fish, but also create an entire industry that can breed, capture and process the fish. In South Africa, we built an industrial link of oyster mushrooms that any local woman is able to understand easily. Many women even made their first bucket of gold by growing the mushrooms within a week. They not only made money by themselves, but also created a good life for their children. They danced and sang when they reaped their first batch of mushrooms. The genuine happiness made me realize the significance of poverty reduction.

The promotion of Juncao technology in impoverished regions not only helped people get rid of poverty, but also blazed a new trail of environmental protection and sustainable development. It offers sufficient material to grow fungi, alleviates the lack of fodders on pastures in dry season, promotes the development of animal husbandry, and sets an example for controlling water and soil loss. In Rwanda, also known as “the land of a thousand hills” where vegetation and water and soil are on a large decrease, Juncao is planted together with fruits, corns and soybeans in the fields. This method has been very much encouraged by Rwanda Agriculture Board.

Over the past 20 years, China’s Juncao technology has sowed its seeds to over 100 countries and regions in the world. Finding solutions to human survival and development through technologies, Juncao is a vivid practice of China to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

(Lin Zhanxi is the inventor of the Juncao technology and chief scientist with China National Engineering Research Center of JUNCAO Technology.)

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