China: Guilian Li

Seeing my farmer friends bidding poverty goodbye, and my scientific projects bringing them profits – nothing could be more exhilarating than this.

— Guilian Li

Li Guilian of Huayin City, Shanxi Province, graduated from the Department of Gardening, Agricultural University, Guizhou Province in 1964, specializing in fruit and vegetables. She is vice dean at Guizhou Provincial Agricultural Science Institute and has been engaged in researching and promoting vegetable-growing technoloies for 40 years. Farmers in over 20 counties and cities of the province now grow vegetables all year round, resulting in better incomes, the development of agricultural plastic sheeting, chemical fertilizer, pesticide, vegetable seeds, restaurants, hotels and transportation.

In 1979 China was still at the first stage of reform. Luodian County was in a remote and underdeveloped mountainous area. The people did not plant many crops, mainly just hot peppers and soybeans. Rice was planted only once a year. Thus economic development was slow and the peasants had low incomes. That year Li Guilian brought her vegetable technologies to Luodian. She traveled from village to village in the mountains, training peasants to grow out-of-season vegetables, and to spread the technology further, particularly to the younger generation. Li wanted to change a natural advantage into an economic advantage through scientific means, so that peasant incomes would increase. Growing out-of-season vegetables is now the main produce of low-temperature areas such as Luodian, Guanling, Zhenning, and Wangmo, improving farmers' incomes. It also increases possibilities for a livestock breeding industry. The rearing of pigs can provide natural fertilizer for growing vegetables, creating a fine and sustainable agricultural cycle. In 1996 Li suggested an innovative and scientific means of using the cool climate of summer and autumn in high-altitude areas of Guizhou to develop summer and autumn out-of-season non-toxic vegetables. Now Li is almost 60. But, as before, she goes without her holidays and frequently lives in the villages of Dafang, Weining and Longli, imparting her knowlege of cultivation technologies. Her long dedication to such work has made her a friend and teacher to many a peasant. In 1987, when she was hospitalized, four peasants and four children from Luodian visited her in hospital. This was an especially memorable scene in her life. Overall, Li Guilian has dedicated her life to peasants, agriculture, and the villages with courage and creativity, and has achieved great things despite all the difficulties.

Guizhou Agricultural Science Institute