“Since the release of the HEI Science and Technology Innovation Action Plan for Rural Rejuvenation (2018-2022), higher education institutions (HEIs) across the country have been mobilizing resources and taking measures to rejuvenate rural areas, upgrade agriculture and improve farmer well-being through science and technology innovation. To date, over 30 HEIs have developed supportive work plans and 13 established rural revitalization colleges,” said Lei Chaozi, Director-General of the MOE’s Department of Science and Technology, at a press conference held by the MOE on June 13.
Lei noted that, as a guidance document, the Action Plan identified major tasks in six areas and that remarkable progress had been made since its implementation.
First, in terms of scientific research, nearly 40% of key research projects under the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) were devoted to rural and agriculture-related issues. The HEIs have achieved significant results in agricultural genetics and breeding, soil improvement and other areas. Among the 15 major breakthroughs in China’s agricultural science in 2017, seven were achieved by HEIs, providing a fundamental driving force for rural rejuvenation.
Second, innovative technologies and application models have been created to tackle difficult productivity constraints and enable green growth. According to Zhang Fusuo, professor at China Agricultural University and member of Chinese Academy of Engineering who delivered a speech at the conference, his team has, over the past decade, worked with 1,152 researchers, 65,000 agricultural technology service workers, 130,000 technicians from different agricultural companies and 20.9 million farmers in 452 counties to apply innovative technologies in 37.7 million hectares of farmland, increasing food production by 33 million tons and adding 79.3 billion RMB in revenue while reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer by 1.2 million tons.
Third, capacity-building has been leveraged in a variety of ways, including the establishment of experiment stations, expert stations and demonstrative bases. The rural development institutes (RDIs) of 39 HEIs have set up over 300 experiment stations, 500 expert stations and 1,400 demonstrative bases for agricultural technology promotion, which have served 1,700 agricultural companies, promoted the application of 10,000 research outcomes, and increased yields by 600 billion RMB.
Fourth, HEIs have also made great contribution to rural rejuvenation by training experts, skilled agricultural technicians and farmers. The statistics show that 164 or 46% of the scientists working at the new posts included in the National Modern Agricultural Technology System under the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan were from HEIs. The RDIs of 39 HEIs have sent a total of 46,000 special technicians to offer technical guidance to farmers, and provided training of various forms to 480,000 people working for rural rejuvenation, 430,000 local technicians, and 2.5 million professional farmers.
Fifth, the HEIs have established targeted poverty relief stations in poorest areas, aiming to increase stable sources of wealth for rural people by equipping them with knowledge, promoting the application of suitable technologies, and expanding markets for local products.Finally, Lei said that the MOE would enhance resource allocation, increase policy support, and offer more assistance in coordination and more guidance on poverty eradication.