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China's Biodiversity: Water Shield Conservation Delivers Economic Advantages for Farmers in Chongqing

Water shield is a threatened aquatic plant that is utilized for food and medicine. Shizhu County in Southwest China's Chongqing is currently the world's largest water shield generating zone, and farmers have benefited from this.

Kritika Madhukar
Shizhu county contains 13,000 mu (about 860 hectares) of water shields.
Shizhu county contains 13,000 mu (about 860 hectares) of water shields.

The water shield is an endangered aquatic plant. The sensitive leaf beneath the water, protected by thick pectin, is the edible section of the water shield. The greater the thickness, the better for sales and exports. Farmers claim that Shizhu County has the finest water shield in China because of pure water, adequate temperatures, and soil.

The National Chinese Medicine Technology Innovation Strategic Alliance's station chief is Lei Boze. He has spent several years researching water barriers. He claims that the total dissolved solids (TDS) in mountain spring water are barely three milligrams per liter. 

TDS levels in a water shield field range between seven and thirteen milligrams per liter. TDS levels in commercially available bottled water are typically about 40 milligrams per liter.

Shizhu county contains 13,000 mu (about 860 hectares) of water shields. Each mu produces one tonne of material every year. Water shield farmers can earn up to $1,500 per mu based on this year's buying price.

Financial Assistance from Government to Grow Water Shields

Cao Qunhua, a farmer in Shizhu County's Tianwan hamlet, told a news agency that she planted three or four mu of water shields. The government helps her in replacing the seedlings. She also receives a $1,000 annual subsidy for water shields.

Aside from financial assistance, the local government also assists local farmers in developing ecological tourism by establishing hotels to supplement their revenue.

Harvested water shields are purchased on the same day by the local agriculture commission and corporations because of the limited preservation period. To broaden the usage, local businesses are employing water shields to produce items such as facial treatments, noodles, and drinks. 

Farmers can also become business shareholders and receive dividends at the end of the year. This has proved a ticket out of poverty for many families, and some young adults have returned to the villages they fled to assist their older relatives in selling things through e-commerce, with some employing tactics like live-streaming to promote sales.

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