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Photographer transforming into avocado farming pioneer

Updated: 2024-02-21 07:23 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Dameng's photography work, The Va Girl and Her Avocados. CHINA DAILY

Li Wei, 30, better known by his online alias "Dameng", manages an avocado orchard in Menglian Dai, Lahu, and Va Autonomous County of Pu'er, Yunnan province. He uses his photography to promote the city, which sits on the border between China and Myanmar.

Hailing from Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous prefecture, Yunnan, Dameng is a member of the Hani ethnic group. Three years ago, he was working as a travel experience designer and photographer, having visited over 30 countries. However, he felt drawn to his own ethnic group and decided to return to Yunnan to document local ethnic cultures.

After visiting several places, Dameng lacked sustained financial support, so he started looking for ways to use his skills to help local people and also make some money.

In October 2020, he arrived in Menglian, a town comparable in latitude to Michoacan, Mexico, a major avocado-producing region.

"When I saw avocado trees stretching from the mountaintops to the foothills, I knew I had finally found the right place that could accommodate me," he recalled.

In April 2021, Dameng planted his first batch of avocado seedlings. But for the first three years, he had to prune the avocados to encourage the growth of the trees, and only from the fourth year onward did the trees begin to yield fruit.

Since his own avocado trees have not yet borne fruit, Dameng has been purchasing avocados from local farmers, above market price, to sell through his own online and offline channels.

Using his expertise in photography, Dameng bridges the gap between consumers and the origin of the avocados, allowing them to see the fruits' growing environment and the growth process. His reverence for nature and ethnic culture earned recognition from consumers.

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