Xiaogang Village in Anhui Province has become something of a household name in China since it pioneered the division of collective land into plots for every family 30 years ago.
And today, it is the laboratory for the country's latest rural reform.
In this round, farmers are leasing their land to other farms or companies and earning money from the leasing fees, and then finding jobs on farms or in cities.
Two years ago, 65-year-old Yan Jinchang and about 10 other households rented their 18 hectares of land to a Shanghai company-owned pig farm. In 2006, the firm built the pig farm on the property.
Yan, who took huge political risk in December 1978 for the experimental division of collective land, has been made the pig farm's manager because of his experience and leadership.
"We raise special pigs that produce lean pork; our meat sells well in Shanghai, and we are profitable," Yan said.
He now earns both from working on the farm and revenues from leasing the land use rights. About half the households whose land use rights have been leased to the pig farm have at least one family member working for the company.
"What this means is that our incomes have at least doubled since the land use rights transfer," said Yan. He now earns about 1,000 yuan, and each mu of land (1/15th of a hectare) he leases out can bring in an additional 500 yuan annually.
Farming households in Anhui can earn a maximum of 500 yuan per mu of crops a year.
Some households in Xiaogang have leased their land to a vineyard.
"The profit from growing grapes is 10 times that of raising other crops," the company's owner Yan Deyou said.
President Hu Jintao lauded the experiment's success during a recent tour of the village. He said the household contract responsibility system had greatly boosted local enthusiasm for, and success in, agricultural production.
While assuring rural dwellers the current land contractual relations will remain stable and unchanged for a long time, he encouraged the farmers to transfer land contract and management rights by various means as they wished.
Hu's comments are expected to be discussed at the third Plenary Session of the 17th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, running from today to Sunday.
Veteran rural development reformer Duan Yingbi said it's vital for every rural household to have their own land because of the sheer size of the country's rural population.
"It guarantees the livelihoods of poor, undereducated farmers," said Duan, who now works as president of China Poverty-alleviation Foundation.
He urged the legislative body to design a legal framework to protect the farmers' land contract rights and encourage transfers. "We should try our best to put farmers' interests under the legal umbrella."
(Xinhua News Agency / China Daily September 9, 2008)