Ecotourism leads Yunnan village to prosperity

By Xing Xiaojun

Guangming village sits on the top of the Cangshan Mountain in Yangbi Yi autonomous county, Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, southwest China’s Yunnan province. People of five ethnic groups, including Yi, Han, Bai, Dai and Lisu, are living there.

Covered by ancient walnut trees and always blurred by tree shadow, Guangming is also known as a “village over the cloud.”

Yangbi Yi autonomous county is a renowned production base of walnuts. In Guangming village, ancient walnut trees are seen everywhere and each one has an identity card hanging on it to prove its age. The oldest walnut tree in the village has a history of 1,165 years.

With a long tradition of walnut planting, the village is home to more than 10,000 walnut trees that are over 100 years old and 6,000 that have lived at least 200 years.

In recent years, a number of walnut seedlings have been planted in the village, which brought the contiguous planting area of walnut trees to 10,000 mu, or 667 hectares.

There are currently 304 households in the village divided into seven villager groups. Though the village suffered poor transportation, a lack of arable land and an underdeveloped economy, it enjoyed a well-grounded walnut business and a sound ecology with 85 percent of forest coverage.

However, the price of walnut plunged in 2013 and young villagers started seeking job opportunities outside the village, which hollowed up the village.

To find a new path of development, Guangming village began to boost rural with ecotourism and made vigorous efforts to drive the walnut business.

In 2015, a local tourism company in Yangbi Yi autonomous county invested in Guangming village, encouraging villagers to run agritainment businesses and B&Bs. It launched a series of rural tourism experience projects highlighting farming, agricultural processing and leisure activities.

A man performs at the opening ceremony of a walnut festival held in Guangming village, Yangbi Yi autonomous county, Dali Bai autonomous prefecture, southwest China’s Yunnan province, Sept. 1, 2017. (Photo by Li Faxing/People’s Daily Online)

Besides, the village coordinated resources and made a unique development plan for every single agritainment facility, from roast sheep and chicken services to walnut feast. In 2019, Guangming village became an “online celebrity,” receiving 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a day at most.

“The vegetables we cook are all fresh plants I get from the wild, and we also raise chickens and pigs for our meal service. Our business is so great. We built a new house recently, and it will expand our agritainment facility,” said Zha Shouli, who runs an agritainment facility in Guangming village.

She always gets up early in the morning to pick wild vegetables on the mountain near her house, so that her guests can enjoy the most authentic taste.

Yangbi Yi autonomous county was officially removed from the poverty list on April 30, 2019. A total of 3,897 registered impoverished households from 24 villages in two townships were lifted out of poverty. Two years ago, the village was named a national beautiful leisure village released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.

Modern, green and leisure agriculture, as well as rural e-commerce, are emerging in the village, and more and more young returnees hoping to start businesses in their hometown. The youngsters establish e-commerce platforms and develop local ecotourism to contribute to rural vitalization.

As solar power generation, garbage and sewage disposal and the “toilet revolution” are promoted in the rural area, Guangming village has seen prominent ecology improvement.

From an agricultural village to an ecological village, Guangming village has explored a broad path leading to a brighter future.

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