A donkey development project illustrates one of the Chinese communist party's strategies for rural poverty alleviation. Inspection and quarantine bureaus--responsible for inspecting imports and exports--have been instructed to take on side projects to help poor farmers as a political task. Communist party organizations are using their connections to mobilize resources in order to accomplish a task that would be conducted by NGOs or specialized aid agencies in most countries.
According to the Yunnan Province inspection and quarantine bureau, the unit's communist party organization led a program to bring economic development to Xinle Village, a small community of 1546 people with an average of just 0.61 mu (one-tenth of an acre) of land per person. The effort was described as the bureau's "political responsibility for poverty alleviation."
The inspection and quarantine bureau (known as "CIQ") arrived to help in 2015. A cooperative designed to produce milk from water buffaloes started by village leaders the previous year had failed. Some in the village wanted to ask the CIQ officials to help jump-start their water buffalo coop, but others thought it best to move on to some other venture that could make money as fast as possible.
CIQ officials recommended that the village try raising donkeys. They observed that 60 percent of the families in the village raised donkeys, and they knew that China has a shortage of donkey skins needed to make a traditional Chinese medicine called e'jiao (阿胶).
The Yunnan CIQ linked up with the most prominent e'jiao manufacturer--Dong'e E'jiao in Shandong Province, thousands of miles away. The company has been active in promoting donkey production, breeding, and marketing to alleviate its shortage of donkey skins. The company routinely raises prices by 20-50 percent each year, citing the soaring prices for donkey skins. Several months ago, the dimsums blog profiled an international donkey symposium hosted by the company.
In March 2016, the Yunnan CIQ took the head of the village committee and a donkey farmer to visit the "National Black Donkey Breeding Center" established in Shandong by the Dong'e E'jiao company. When they returned from the trip, the village's communist party branch and members of each production team responsible for poverty programs agreed to set up a "poverty alleviation" donkey farming cooperative in Xinle Village with 56 households as members.
Using a “party branch + antipovery farmer + specialized farm household” model, the cooperative was designed to transform the scattered courtyard-style of families raising donkeys individually to a scaled-up commercial model. The Yunnan CIQ spent 430,000 yuan (about $65,000) to buy 86 mares and 3 male donkeys as breeding stock.
The bureau called on provincial government experts to advise farmers on how to raise donkeys, feed formulas, and disease control. The Tengchong municipal government organized training and gave the Xinle Village farmers subsidies to build donkey barns. The cooperative now reportedly has 160 donkeys.
The Yunnan CIQ got advice on donkey breeding from its counterpart CIQ in Shandong Province. Yunnan donkeys are smaller, grow more slowly, and are less-favored by buyers compared with the improved "Dezhou" breed developed in Shandong. Using the Dezhou breed would increase efficiency, but officials realized that the different climate and altitude in Yunnan could kill off the Shandong breeds. With help from the Shandong CIQ, the Yunnan CIQ sent four Xinle Villagers to the Dong'e E'jiao company's breeding base for training in breeding and artificial insemination with the objective of developing their own local breed within 5 years.
The donkey program is an example of a broader strategy motivated by the Chinese leadership's goal of achieving a "relatively well-off society" by 2020.
The Yunnan CIQ says it has similar antipoverty projects to raise capers, grapes, and a specialty breed of chickens, as well as a program to offer free medical exams to "offer love and warmth in its poverty alleviation."
Other provincial CIQs have similar antipoverty programs. Last year, the Guangdong CIQ set up a vegetable cooperative in a poor, mountainous area of northern Guangdong Province, saying its program was inspired by Xi Jinping's "Two Centuries" objective. The Guangdong CIQ explains that it is striving to improve food and agricultural product quality by providing guidance on inspection, cooperating with local governments, and using agribusiness companies to lift people out of poverty.
The Xinjiang CIQ also attributes inspiration for its antipoverty efforts to Xi Jinping's admonishment to bring wealth to the countryside in order to achieve the goal of becoming a relatively well-off country with a theme of "party leadership, administrative guidance, and participation by the entire society."