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Tsinghua partners with FAO to explore new model of agriculture delivery in rural areas

Yue Qiushi, national consultant on poverty reduction/south-south cooperation of FAO China, speaks to Tsinghua University students. [Photo by Zhang Zilong]

Recently Tsinghua University, one of China’s top-tier Universities located in Beijing, has launched an 8-weeks graduate course of Service Design on the subject of rural development and technology-based poverty reduction in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in China. 

The graduate course aims at producing new poverty relief services that integrate information technologies and agriculture production; and to create new models for poverty reduction through the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices and linking farmers to markets.

Field experts from FAO, governmental departments, NGO organizations as well as big technology enterprises, such as Microsoft, met students and talked about their work, latest technologies and concepts that could be adopted in rural development and technology-based targeted poverty reduction efforts.

The course requires students to design a group project entitled "Internet Plus Rural Farmer Field School," which will be evaluated and likely implemented by the FAO and partners, said Fu Zhiyong, who is both the department’s vice dean and in charge of the course.

At the third session of the course, students visited a Farmer Field School in Shunyi District, located in the suburb of Beijing, and interviewed local farmers after the class for their actual needs in farming, packing, marketing, sales as well as other production activities, such as the safe usage of pesticide.

Yue Qiushi, National consultant on poverty reduction & south-south cooperation of FAO China stressed that: “Globally, there has been no systematic effort to promote a new wave of farmer filed schools enhanced by ICTs and tailored to help the poor. As pioneers in this journey, we hope that we could work closely together and contribute to agricultural extension and poverty reduction efforts in China and elsewhere in the world. ”

China has made great progress in poverty reduction, there still remained 30.46 million poor people who mostly live in rural areas. In that regard, accelerated investment in sustainable and more profitable agriculture and food systems will be key to help the country realize multiple SDGs: ending extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition, sustainable management of natural resources, and building resilience to climate change.

In addition, many poor areas are located in remote mountainous areas with good natural environment, providing a good condition to practice agroecology. Reversing the traditional chemical-intensive food and agricultural production will also reduce the negative effects of pesticides on the poor’s health and environment.

In the following sessions, Tsinghua students will continue their journey on research proposal, prototype design, evaluation and testing.