Across China: College-graduate shepherds breathe life to impoverished village

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LANZHOU, July 2 (Xinhua) — Ji Yongfeng called it a day after delivering a lecture to some 40 college graduates, who are being trained in herding sheep back in their native villages.

Ji,33, who graduated from Northwest Agricultural and Forestry University, returned to his home county of Huanxian, in the city of Qingyang, northwest China’s Gansu Province, in 2013. He is currently the president of Huanxian’s sheep industry association that caters to college graduates.

Huanxian, a region with mostly barren land, has long endured soil erosion that left local residents destitute. For generations, people had been rearing sheep, yet unscaled grazing did not induce any benefit.

The decision to return to the poor countryside after completing college was an unusual choice as most educated youths were unwilling to do that, not to mention following the footsteps of their forebears as shepherds, Ji recalled.

Three years after returning to Huanxian, Ji took up the job of a manager at a livestock farm and five college graduates joined him.

“Compared with the locally recruited farmers, the college graduates were well-educated and quick learners and possessed higher levels of intelligence,” Ji said.

He knew it very well that the young talents would be the game changers for the future development of Huanxian’s sheep breeding industry. Therefore, Ji founded the professional association in 2019 to provide training and business incubation services for young job seekers and entrepreneurs returning home.

So far, the association has grown to include more than 400 members, with over 1,000 college graduates receiving training in sheep raising.

Han Chenchen, 27, enrolled in a training course at the association after several failed attempts in finding a job after graduation. Shortly thereafter, he established himself as the mainstay of a medium-sized livestock farm and plans to run his own farm in three years.

“At first, my parents thought that raising sheep after graduating from college wasn’t a decent job, but they changed their mind after visiting my workplace and meeting my colleagues who are mostly my age,” Han said.

The college graduates have ushered in remarkable changes to the local sheep breeding industry, and it was they who have adopted scientific methods that supported the local poverty alleviation efforts, Ji noted.

In recent years, the local government of Qingyang has rolled out a slew of supportive policies to attract well-educated talents, offering free office space, loans and subsidies, as well as reduction and exemption of water and electricity charges.

Statistics from the local human resources and social security bureau showed that more than 6,300 college graduates have returned to Qingyang and started their business in the breeding industry and other sectors such as e-commerce.

“The sheep raised by the college-graduate shepherds grow bigger, healthier and sell better,” said Wang Zhitao, a village official in Huanxian. Enditem

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