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Photographer transforming into avocado farming pioneer

Updated: 2024-02-21 07:23 ( CHINA DAILY )
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Dameng (center) posing for a photo with local farmers. CHINA DAILY

By the end of the local avocado harvest season in early January, Dameng achieved sales revenue of 1 million yuan.

Unlike many agricultural companies, which often maintain a purely leasing relationship with the local community, Dameng makes sure that all the income is shared equally between him and the local farmers who rent their fields to him. This, he believes, fosters inclusivity and equitable agricultural development.

Dameng is currently collaborating with 96 households of Va, Lahu, and Dai ethnic groups to plant 5,000 avocado trees, encouraging them to intercrop avocados in the front and backyards of their homes or in coffee fields, which not only maximizes land utilization but also diversifies income sources.

Ai Dan, for example, a 46-year-old Va villager, planted 200 avocado trees alongside his coffee crop, and last year had a bumper harvest of both coffee and avocados.

"I earned 10,000 yuan ($1,389) from avocados and over 10,000 yuan from coffee. Planting two crops on one piece of land is much more profitable," Ai said.

Dameng also educated local farmers on sustainable farming practices, advocating against the excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He initiated lessons on producing organic enzymes from fruit waste to enhance soil fertility.

In his spare time, Dameng likes to take photos of the locals, capturing their simple and vivid smiles.

His work, The Va Girl and Her Avocados, was published in a well-known magazine last year, and Spring in the Ears, featuring elderly Va women wearing wildflowers in their ears, won an award at the Chinese Ethnic Minority Photographer Prize last year.

In addition to photography, Dameng takes advantage of his experience as a travel designer. He offers a project where participants can pick seasonal fruits at the orchard, experience tea picking at the famed Jingmai Mountain of Pu'er, and visit the village of the Blang ethnic group.

He also ventures into developing cultural and creative products, with proceeds donated to rural public welfare initiatives.

Dameng said that many people envy his seemingly peaceful farm life, but the reality is quite different. He must deal with various challenges, such as expanding sales channels and improving product presentation and promotion.

"Whenever I feel lost and full of doubt, I like to take off my shoes and step onto the soil of the orchard. It grounds me like nothing else," he said.

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