German ecologist helps relieve poverty in Sichuan

Updated: 2016-01-22 11:20


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A German expert has devoted 15 years of his prime to protecting ecology and helping locals plant cash crops to get out of poverty in the hometown of Chinese pandas, West China Metropolis Daily reported on Wednesday.

Dr. Holger Perner, a 55-year-old PhD in ecology, gave up his job at National Science Academy in Germany in 2001, and stayed in his wife Yu Wenqing's hometown in Sichuan province, China ever since.

"Sichuan is the paradise of any ecologist. Kiwi fruits did not originate in New Zealand, but in Sichuan province," said Dr. Holger Perner.

Instead of Chengdu city, a common choice for foreigners seeking a leisurely life in Sichuan province, Dr. Perner chose to work as a senior counselor at Huanglong Scenic and Historic Interest Area in Songpan county, Aba prefecture, which is home to many nature reserves such as Jiuzhaigou and Woolong Nature Reserve.

"Only two of the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots are in China, and Woolong Panda base is one of them," said Perner.

Besides contributing to the sustainable usage of natural resources and the cultivation of orchids, Perner came up with ideas to help locals improve their living conditions.

The ecologist says it's urgent to let farmers change current production methods, which caused great ecological destruction by overly relying on natural resources.

In 2007, he found the blueberry suitable to plant in mountainous areas of Songpan county after researching different cash crops.

The expert enthusiastically taught locals to plant blueberry seedlings, which originate in Europe, with the help of his wife's translation, as she can speak four languages.

The blueberry proved to be a success as 0.06 of a hectare of blueberries can earn more than 10,000 yuan ($1,520) while 0.06 of a hectare of potatoes or corn can only earn 700 or 800 yuan.

Perner continues to help local farmers live a better life and has been trying to plant cloned blueberries in areas of higher altitude.

He also plans to plant another five crash crops, such as blackberries, in next three years in the alpine region of Aba.

Perner and his wife travel between Chengdu and Songpan county 15 times a year, with a single trip of around 350 kilometers. In the past 15 years, they have travelled 180,000 kilometers, half the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

"I have become used to living here, and the biggest change is that I am especially fond of spicy food nowadays. If possible, I will live in Sichuan till my life ends," said Perner.