Early in the morning, Guo Jinping, a farmer who is almost 60 years old, attaches her smartphone to a tripod in her field in Lingtou village of Wuxiang county, north China's Shanxi province, as she prepares to start a live-streaming show.
"It's good to see you again, my friends. Look at the blue skies and green millet seedlings. The millets produced here will definitely be of high quality," the live-streamer said while weeding the field.
Guy did not have much of an education, and had spent the previous decades growing coarse cereals on her parcels of land. But the arrival of a smartphone saw her life change dramatically.
Now she runs an online store that sells about a dozen local specialty products such as millet and walnuts, and advertises her products on Douyin, a popular Chinese short-video platform and app.
"I never thought that I could earn money through the internet," she said, recalling that even in a bumper harvest year, she was only able to earn about 1,000 yuan from half a hectare of coarse cereals.
Guo's family situation began to improve when Wuxiang, known as an ideal place for growing millet, decided to develop its e-commerce sector.
In 2015, Wuxiang became a national comprehensive demonstration county for introducing e-commerce into rural areas. However, when Lingtou village launched its first e-commerce training course for villagers, only seven trainees signed up.
Guo was one of them. In order to attend the course, she asked her daughter to buy a smartphone to replace her basic cellphone. Initially, she had so much difficulty understanding the instructions on how to install WeChat and add contacts on the social media app that she thought about quitting. But the huge investment she had made in buying the smartphone made her determined to carry on.
Guo was firmly won over after she received her first online order. After her nephew reposted one of her advertisements, a netizen from Shenzhen in south China's Guangdong province bought over 50kg of walnuts from her for 1,500 yuan.
Greatly encouraged by the result, Guo continued to learn how to run an online store, hold live-streaming sessions, as well as record and post short videos. In 2019, she received over 1,000 orders, bringing an income of about 100,000 yuan.
Inspired by her success story, more and more villagers are now turning to e-commerce and live-streaming sessions to sell their agricultural products.
Wei Baoyu, a villager who is almost 50 years old, earned over 70,000 yuan through e-commerce last year. Wang Chengsheng, a villager born in the 1950s, earned an annual income of over 10,000 yuan from his online store, while the sales revenue of Zhang Shaodong, a disabled resident, hit more than 6,000 yuan.
More than 100 farmers in the village, most of whom were over 50 years old, have been engaging in e-commerce, according to Hao Xudong, deputy director of the e-commerce office of Wuxiang.
In addition, Guo also shared some advice on how to put on a live-streaming show. “Don’t directly say 'place an order right now’,” she said, adding that the show should be about rural life.
E-commerce has also brought new momentum to the county's poverty alleviation efforts. By the end of 2014, there were 50,298 impoverished people in the county, and the incidence of poverty stood at 23.9 percent.
In recent years, the county has taken measures to fight poverty through the development of e-commerce, such as improving information infrastructure and logistical networks, standardizing the planting of millet and brand management, as well as applying for a green food certificate.
As a result, Wuxiang has now trained 7,075 residents, including 4,137 poor people. E-commerce helped 2,318 impoverished people increase their incomes by about 3.5 million yuan.
* This article was published in partnership with People’s Daily Online SA.