Thematic Study on China’s Latest Sci-tech-Powered Rural Transformation Trends and Practices Unveiled

A thematic study known as “Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation 2022 Report: Digital Technology Empowers Agricultural Value Chain Development” covering the latest trends and practices associated with the undertaking in China is released at the 2022 International Forum on Digital Technology Empowering Rural Transformation on Nov. 25. [Photo/China.org.cn]

“Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation 2022 Report: Digital Technology Empowers Agricultural Value Chain Development” was released at the 2022 International Forum on Digital Technology Empowering Rural Transformation, which was held online on Nov. 25. The report outlines and summarises development trends associated with science and technology-powered transformation in rural areas, practical new techniques and technologies, and select best practices, with a special emphasis on those that are innovative, sustainable, and applicable to developing countries.

The cover of “Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation 2022 Report: Digital Technology Empowers Agricultural Value Chain Development” [Photo/China.org.cn]

The report suggests that digital agriculture, and especially smart agricultural machinery, can effectively optimise operations such as planting and harvesting; facilitate precision application of seed, fertiliser, and pesticide; reduce grain loss and harm to human health; control non-point source pollution; conserve energy and reduce carbon emissions; and address other problems via unmanned operations and notes that the approach can, therefore, “greatly improve labour productivity, yields, and resource utilisation and promote sustainable development of agriculture.”

The report highlights the key role that digital technology plays in the bolstering of agricultural value chain development, observing that this type of development is mostly reflected in supply chain development, brand building, and digitalisation of production, supply, and sales in eastern China and that capacity building and training and digitally powered smallholder value chain development consolidate China’s poverty reduction efforts and thus lay a solid foundation for rural vitalisation in western China.

It also notes that promoting rural development with digital finance “cannot be achieved overnight” and that the endeavour is a “gradual process that moves towards overall financial inclusion with advances in digital infrastructure and digital technology and pertinent government policies that requires necessary conditions to be met and various problems and challenges to be taken into account.”

China Internet Information Center (CIIC), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in China, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) China Office, World Food Programme (WFP) China, and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (ESCAP-CSAM) initiated the project that led to the publication of the “Sci-Tech Empowering Rural Transformation 2022 Report,” and it was compiled by CIIC, FAO Representation in China, the IFAD China Office, WFP China Centre of Excellence, ESCAP-CSAM, AliResearch and the Chinese Academy of Financial Inclusion. 

Robert Walker, professor at Beijing Normal University’s School of Sociology and fellow at the U.K.’s Academy of Social Sciences, said that digital agricultural mechanization and precision agriculture, together with digital technology to support e-commerce and digital finance, fundamentally have the capacity to enhance the ecology of the rural economy. However, “digital advance needs to be accompanied by sustained improvements in the physical, social, and policy infrastructure to ensure inevitable inequities introduced by digitization can be readily rectified.”

“Your dedication in studying and researching agri-food-related technologies is key to driving rural transformation, agricultural value chain development, and rural economies and [supporting] communities and natural resource management that we need,” Siddharth Chatterjee, United Nations resident coordinator in China, expressed during the event, referring to all of the parties that have been involved with the report. “More significantly, your efforts are also aimed at engineering South-South and triangular cooperation in the subject area, thus promoting agricultural and rural development in other developing countries. This well illustrated the value proposition of UN agencies in China.”

Participants also touched on the FAO’s Digital Village Initiative, which entails promoting digital innovations in rural communities in order to boost livelihoods, wellbeing and social cohesion. With many possibilities related to the application and harnessing of digital innovations and services coming into existence, the concept is not wedded to any fixed pathway or approach.

“The FAO is implementing the Digital Villages Initiative globally in order to support the sustainable development of agri-food systems through digital agriculture, digital services for farmers and rural digital transformation,” Carlos Watson, FAO representative to China, said in an interview with China.org.cn. “So far, 10 Chinese case studies have been recognized.”

“The FAO will work with the Chinese government, to exchange China’s Digital Village experience and good practices in the Asia-Pacific region and globally through South-South and triangular cooperation,” he concluded.

Qu Sixi, WFP representative to China, revealed that this report is an excellent demonstrator of the value and role of digital technology empowerment in rural development in China. “Digital technology empowers production to be more efficient, markets to be more integrated and financial services to be more convenient. It plays a significant role in promoting China’s rural value chain construction and generates a good effect on China’s poverty reduction, which can provide stories of success for other developing countries.” He continued, “The WFP China Centre of Excellence is focusing on digital South-South cooperation to promote the application, demonstration and dissemination of digital technologies in South-South cooperation so that more farmers in developing countries can benefit from digital technology development and progress.”

Discussing integration with China’s Digital Village strategy, Sun Yinhong, Country Program Officer of IFAD China, mentioned that IFAD is dedicated to improving digital-based financial service for farmers and rural small and micro businesses through financial education, value chain financing with banks and other financial institutions, digital credit models based on digital agriculture scenarios, weather index insurance, and assistance with the development of digital financial services models and products to various financial institutions at the forum.

“IFAD will also support China’s Digital Village development and promote the application of modern information technologies, such as 5G, cloud technology, the IoTs, and big data, in agricultural and rural management,” Sun remarked in an interview with China.org.cn.

“China and other countries in the Asia-Pacific region can share the latest advancements in digital agriculture and smart agricultural machinery and equipment and promote their application in order to harness data and information and treat them as core elements of food production when engaging in South-South and triangular cooperation,” Li Yutong, head of ESCAP-CSAM, noted in relation to the great potential of digital technology in rural transformation in an interview with China.org.cn. “This will help strengthen the capacity and resilience of countries in the region to ensure food security, boost poverty reduction and address climate change.”

Tan Chongjun, deputy director of AliResearch, stated, “We hope more countries will find their own digital development paths. In light of their prevailing conditions, developing countries can learn useful international experiences from China and other countries, adopt extensive public policies to incentive sustainable and inclusive growth, pour more investment in logistics and IT infrastructure and human capital to narrow the digital divide, forge sound cooperation between the public and private sectors, give full attention to the role of digitalization and online business in rural innovation and entrepreneurship, encourage mass entrepreneurship and innovation, and let more people share the dividends of digitalization.”

“CIIC has been very active in the field of international communication in areas such as poverty reduction and rural development over the past few years,” Wang Xiaohui, the organisation’s editor-in-chief said. “This report is our latest attempt in communicating China’s rural vitalisation experiences with international audiences.”

“Looking ahead, CIIC will continue to promote China’s campaign of boosting rural development with technology and promote the exchange of experience among developing countries through knowledge sharing by making full use of its comprehensive multi-lingual, multi-platform media advantages,” he added.

2022 International Forum on Digital Technology Empowering Rural Transformation was co-hosted by CIIC, FAO Representation in China, the IFAD China Office, WFP China, and ESCAP-CSAM, and academic support was provided by AliResearch, the Chinese Academy of Financial Inclusion, and the School of Languages and Communication Studies, Beijing Jiaotong University.

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