From the soil: How one village cut poverty through…flowers?

 In op-ed, personal

Hannah Ryder, CEO Development Reimagined explores how one village in China, that initially grew just one crop, has cut poverty in just a decade… but will it last? Can the same be done elsewhere?

Watch her vlog to find out!

 

Shanlian, a village outside Wuxi in Jiangsu Province of China, has recently gained national prominence. In about a decade, this village of 7,000 more than tripled its per capita income from under $4 a day to over $13. This remarkable feat provokes questions not just related to poverty in China, but beyond, to those living in poverty globally.

Poverty alleviation, particularly for rural populations, has a checkered history internationally. Between the 1960s and 1970s, Tanzania implemented one of Africa’s most famous poverty reduction projects: ujamaavillages. Founded on the basis of a revolutionary African socialism articulated by Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, these villages sought to achieve economic development through collective agriculture. The initiative had its successes, including lowering infant mortality rates, fostering high literacy and circumventing tribalism. However, ultimately, the ujamaa policy failed to eliminate poverty, and brought with it challenges that arguably hindered economic development in Tanzania.

Over 20 years later, another attempt at eradicating poverty was undertaken: The Millennium Villages Project. The brainchild of former United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan and economist Jeffery Sachs, it aimed to achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)in 10 years across 10 African countries by making a yearly financial investment in every individual living in 10 specially selected locations. Reaching an estimated 500,000 beneficiaries, its success could potentially revolutionize poverty reduction policies worldwide. The project had notable accomplishments in improving agriculture and health. Nevertheless, it neither succeeded in uplifting its beneficiaries out of poverty nor overall met the MDGs.

China did however meet the MDGs, which begs the question how, and within our context why not the ujamaa villages or the Millennium villages. These are questions that hold the key to tackling poverty under the successor of the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose first goal is to reduce global poverty to less than 3% by 2030. The UN estimates that global poverty is down to 8.6% of humanity as of 2018 but will not be successfully eradicated by 2030 at current rates of decline.

Besides lessons from the past, today’s approaches also offer valuable insights. This brings us back to Shanlian, which credits its integrated and diversified model of economic development for its transformation. While the primary economic activity is the cultivation of chrysanthemum, it does not rely on this alone. The villagers have created a complete value chain founded on their agricultural roots including the manufacture of chrysanthemum based products and tourism as well as venturing into other types of farming. A lynchpin to Shanlian’s value added, their brand of rural tourism taps into an industry which is thriving in China, making over $215 billion in 2017. To bolster tourism and to maximize sales of their products, they tap into IoT (Internet of Things) incorporating e-commerce and high tech on their farms and in their hotels.

Who is behind these ideas? Beyond comprehensive government policies, there are individuals contributing to change. Around 2006, a young entrepreneur from Shanlian returned home to facilitate the area’s development by introducing chrysanthemum farming. Later, a college graduate village official, one of over 130,000 Chinese university graduates posted to impoverished rural areas to foster development, introduced a farm-to-table business model where farmers grow vegetables and then serve them at local restaurants.

While Shanlian has had “quick wins”, questions of sustainability still arise. What will happen once others imitate its prototype? Will it retain its edge? Should tourist numbers continue to rise, what impact will this have on the environment? While e-commerce has opened up the local economy to a wider customer base, will its effect level off?

In China and further afield, what to imitate and what to discard from Shanlian’s approach is the key to successful adaptation. In Ghana, there are already plans to leverage the skills of its educated diaspora for the country’s growth. What can be learned from China’s attempts to utilize its college graduates? Research on the benefits of higher education recognizes that it stimulates economic and social entrepreneurship, as well as innovation. The World Bank estimates that Sub-Saharan Africa has increased enrollment in tertiary education eighteen-fold between 1970 and 2013. Can the region harness these individuals to drive much needed acceleration in economic and social development? Africa is also experiencing its own surge in technological growth with inventions such as M-Pesa transforming micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). Could China’s e-commerce and Africa’s mobile money transfer technology cross over?

Cases like Shanlian do not offer a magic formula for poverty alleviation. They do however offer an opportunity to interrogate what it means to eliminate poverty in a world where there are unlimited opportunities for shared learning, and a body of pre-existing work that tells us what works and what hasn’t in poverty alleviation.

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EDMOND BOSILONG

Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.

   HANNAH RYDER

    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.

LEAH LYNCH

Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.

YIKE FU

China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.

JUDITH MWAI

Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.

OVIGWE EGUEGU

Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.

JING CAI

Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.

PATRICK ANAM

Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.

ROSIE FLOWERS

Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

JADE SCARFE

Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.

ROSIE WIGMORE

Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.

LAUREN ASHMORE

Consultant

Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.

ETSEHIWOT KEBRET

Consultant

Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.

DIBEKULU MULU

Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.

OSARU OMOSIGHO

Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.

PIER FERDINANDO CINOTTO

Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.

DAVID TINASHE NYAGWETA

Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.

IVORY KAIRO

Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.

JOY ENE

Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.

CHENSI LI

Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion

HANNAH RYDER

Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.