FAO in China

Witnessing Poverty Alleviation and Advancing Rural Revitalization: Development of SDG Villages Project successfully completed


On 30 August 2023, the Closing Ceremony of the Development of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Villages Project (the Project) was held in Laifeng County, Enshi City, Hubei Province. Representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China (MARA), GF Securities, China Agricultural Science and Education Foundation (CASEF), officials at provincial, municipal, and county levels, farmer representatives from the pilot villages, as well as partners and stakeholders who had been supporting the project, gathered in Laifeng to summarize the Project’s achievements and share experiences in rural poverty reduction and rural revitalization.

Multi-stakeholder partnership among international organization, government, and private sector

On 12 July 2019, with the support of MARA, FAO initiated a strategic collaboration with GF Securities and CASEF to officially launch the Project. By adopting the pioneering Internet + Agriculture + Finance model in 16 pilot villages across Longshan County of Hunan Province, Laifeng County of Hubei Province, Meigu County of Sichuan Province, and Baisha County of Hainan Province, the Project concentrated on enhancing ecological cultivation skills and e-commerce marketing capacities among farmers in the pilot areas, with the US$ 1 million donation from GF Securities. Through the Farmer Field School trainings, the Project aimed to promote standardized practices in green agricultural production, facilitate the transition from traditional agriculture to sustainable agriculture, and yield benefits in both poverty alleviation and income increase for smallholder farmers and rural environmental protection.

As FAO’s first project that is fully funded by the private sector in China, the Project garnered significant attention. The innovative model of the Project was highlighted in international conferences, high-level forums, and media campaigns. In addition, as a piloting poverty alleviation initiative jointly implemented by international organization, government and private sector, the Project received broad recognition and was admitted to the Top 50 Cases of Social Organization Poverty Alleviation by China’s State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development in 2019.

Tailored Farmer Field School Training

Farmer Field School (FFS) is a participatory education approach developed by FAO and partners. Over the years, FAO has amassed extensive experience in organizing the FFS trainings. It has been implemented in over 90 countries, with more than 20 million farmers, pastoralists and fishermen trained. With the support from the National Agricultural Technology Extension and Service Centre (NATESC) of MARA, FFS has been providing training to Chinese farmers since the 1990s. Throughout the implementation of the Project, FAO has leveraged the decades-long expertise to tailor training contents for the pilot villages.

Located in the Daliang Mountains, Meigu County in Sichuan Province features a mountainous terrain, resulting in a limited arable land area. The county has a total population of over 200,000, of which Yi people account for more than 98%. Notably, all rural population are Yi people. In 2021, based on the local context, the Project orchestrated comprehensive FFS training by enlisting experts in high-altitude crops, such as buckwheat, specialists in environment-friendly prevention and control of crop diseases and pests, leaders of farmer cooperatives, researchers in specific fields, and e-commerce marketing trainers.

For most of the participants, it marked their first exposure to such training. Yan Ying, a trainee and agricultural technology extension officer of Meigu County, said, “through this training, we have gained profound insights, such as new ideas and technologies to push forward the development of sustainable agriculture, which has also made us aware of our own shortcomings as technical extension officers.” Qiu Lagu, a Yi trainee, was particularly impressed by the daily interactions with experts during the afternoon sessions. “Every student actively engaged in discussions, leading to a highly positive atmosphere. The trainers patiently addressed each question, offering insightful analyses and professional advice,” said Qiu.

A Trailblazing Innovation: Integrating the Financial Vitality

In September 2019, the project team visited 4 pilot villages in Baisha County of Hainan Province and the local industries such as rubber and tropical fruits in-depth.

GF Futures proactively explored the feasibility of the Insurance + Futures model in the pilot areas, boosting the capacity of smallholder farmers to cope with climate change and market fluctuations. This aimed to prevent farmers from reverting to poverty due to natural disasters or pandemics, thus fostering sustainable development. In 2020, GF Futures, the Shanghai Futures Exchange and the People’s Insurance Company of China, commenced the pilot project Insurance + Futures for natural rubber business in Baisha County. This initiative supported 23,565 households (including 10,666 households identified as impoverished) engaged in rubber planting in Baisha County, which secured the value of 1,000 tons of rubber.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the hardest and the sales of agricultural products plunged, the project team actively coordinated e-commerce resources. They employed methods such as livestream selling and online advertisements on multiple platforms to promote the agricultural products in a sales slump, effectively reducing farmers’ losses and boosting their incomes.

A Step Forward: Advancing Rural Revitalization for Sustainable Development

At the end of 2020, while the Chinese government announced that all the 98.99 million rural residents living under its current poverty line have been lifted out of poverty, the Project’s focus shifted from poverty alleviation to rural revitalization.

One of the project sites, Longshan County in Hunan Province, planned to vigorously develop the Chinese native beekeeping industry and navel orange industry. Aware of this initiative, the project team and the local government reached out to the Institute of Apicultural Research (AIR) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) to sample the honey from the pilot villages. Additionally, they conducted research on agricultural product packaging and brand design services and engaged the School of Arts & Design of Tsinghua University to create packaging designs for honey and navel oranges in Longshan County. Up to now, these packaging designs have been delivered to the County and the local honey has been introduced onto several e-commerce platforms, resulting in the income increase of smallholder farmers in the region.

Laifeng County in Hubei Province is another designated location of the Project, whose local specialties include the Teng tea and the Fengtou ginger. These distinctive agricultural products play a pivotal role in the revitalization of local rural industries. In May 2021, the project team invited experts from FAO, MARA’s Center for Agricultural Product Quality and Safety, and the School of Arts & Design of Tsinghua University to research the Teng tea and the Fengtou ginger, and provided guidance for them to apply for the Agro-product Geographical Indications. At present, the complete branding and packaging designs for the Teng tea and the Fengtou ginger have significantly enhanced the recognition and positioning of both products.

To further stimulate the growth of local agricultural specialty industries, based on the conventional FFS training, the project team expanded the contents to include the agricultural product branding and e-commerce marketing. Experts from leading e-commerce platforms, such as Alibaba and Kuaishou, joined the training team. This strategy was intended to facilitate continued progress for local farmers and agricultural industries after the Project finished, consolidate poverty alleviation, and accelerate rural revitalization.

In practice, the project team diligently sought to develop resources, driving local agricultural products to the market and forging e-commerce sales channels. For instance, in September 2020, during the Chinese Farmers’ Harvest Festival, the project team helped the pilot villages to sell their Teng tea and lily bulbs on the e-commerce platform Pinduoduo. By propelling local agricultural products into the online market, the Project managed to foster sustainable development for agricultural industries at the pilot villages.


With the joint efforts of FAO, GF Securities, CASEF, and local governments, the Project witnessed and participated in China’s arduous journey in poverty alleviation. The 4 selected counties of the Project are part of the key areas for consolidating the accomplishments of poverty alleviation and pushing forward rural revitalization. Upon the Project’s completion, the project team will further collate successful and innovative experiences and share them with other developing countries, therefore contributing to the achievement of SDG.