Workers return to farms:Land transfers change rural lives

CNC report from Jiangxi
Added On April 20, 2013

In recent years, millions of farmers have travelled from across China to become migrant workers, earning an estimated twelve times more in factories and construction, than they did harvesting land.

The urban-rural income gap led to the biggest migration in human history.

Now though, China's government is investing in modern agriculture... And trying to guarentee farmers' livelihoods, to safeguard China's grain production.

As a result, many workers in cities are now turning around - and going back to farm.

Liu Gaomei is a farmer in southern China’s Jiangxi Province.

But life is easier than it used to be.

Land transfers and other preferential policies have made him to stay.

The 47 year-old lives in Anyi county, where most villagers are busy with sowing ahead of Spring.

Unlike many others, Liu isn't working on his own field, but on the farmland owned by the Lv Neng Agricultural Company, which merged fragmented land of various villagers, through land transfers.

Most famers abandoned their rural homes for aluminum businesses, leaving only 20 percent of the population still plowing and sowing at home.

As a result, many fields were deserted, becoming wasteland.

Now though, the government is supporting the transfer of contractual rights over rural land to family farms.

Under the new rural land ownership policy, Ling Jihe set up the Lv Neng Agricultural Company to transfer land in 2009, and now owns 12 million square meters of farmland.

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE) Ling Jihe
"Before I worked in the city, every time I went home, I felt it was a great pity to see a large amount of arable land abandoned. All my brothers worked outside, so we had to beg others to farm for us, then I had the idea to transfer the land in 2004. "

It's impossible for Ling Jihe to manage more than 12 million square meters alone. So he hired some farmers nearby, and divided them into 15 working groups. Liu Gaomei is one of the group leaders.

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE)Liu Gaomei
"President Ling asked me to farm together with him in 2010. He promised that I could get at least 50,000 RMB at the end of the year. It sounded like a fantastic idea to me. I agreed and followed him, in fact, I earned 136,000 RMB at the first year. "

Liu Gaomei said that he had never earned so much money during the past 40 years.

The first thing he did, was buy a car. Now, he drives to his farm everyday.

Lv Neng is run under the modern management system. Each person has a fixed payment, plus an annual bonus. In this way, the villagers have turned from ordinary farmers to industrial workers in the field.

[SOUNDBITE(CHINESE)Liu Gaomei
"The company offers all the equipment, and takes all the risks."

The transfer of rural land can improve efficiency, allowing the use of advanced technology and saving labor costs... While farmers, earn more than ever.

According to Ling, the company earned profits of more than two million RMB last year. What’s more, the new food processing factory is ready to start.

Liu wants to transfer more land and expand it, to more than 33 million square meters.

[SOUNDBITE(CHINESE)Liu Gaomei
Some of my relatives came to join us for farming. I told my son to come back if he could not live a better life in big city.

This year, Liu is expected to be promoted to head of the manufacturing department. And the former poor peasant sees a better future.