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March 16, 2024  China Daily  

Tropical Plant Pandan Transforms Village's Economy

Case Study; Innovative Poverty Alleviation Initiative; Village; Agriculture

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With innovative agricultural practices, the cultivation of pandan, a tropical fragrant plant, has transformed a village in Hainan province, contributing to local economic growth and tourism.

Jiachang village in Wenchang city, where pandan can be seen in the fields, along the roads and on the tables, is a popular rural tourism destination, a provincial demonstration base and a production, study and research base of the Spice and Beverage Crops Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agriculture Sciences.

"Many things can be made from pandan," said Fu Daye, the village's Party secretary. "We are dedicated to living up to the honor of being the No 1 village for pandan cultivation culture and creation in Hainan."

Overseas Chinese from Southeast Asia brought back pandan seedlings in 1949, and the plant later took root in the soil of the village, paving the way for a pillar industry.

"Pandan might look like a common green plant, but when its leaves are gently crushed, the soothing smell will be gradually released, which combines a grass aroma with a subtle and soft floral scent," said Liu Yilei, general manager of Zhongxing Pandan Leisure Farm, which was founded in 2019 in the village.

"When it is cooked, pandan tastes like a mix of nuts, almonds and roses. Thanks to its sweet flavor and unique aroma, pandan has become an indispensable spice in the culinary world of Southeast Asia, and has earned the title of 'Asian vanilla'," he added.

Jiachang villagers, however, didn't fully realize the value of this plant until 2019.

The average cropland area per person in the village was only about 0.07 of a hectare, so many initially favored planting higher-value crops such as betel nut over pandan, according to Fu.

To promote the cultivation of pandan, the village committee and the farm staff have given pandan seedlings to villagers for free.

The villagers then discovered that planting pandan under the betel nut forest doesn't affect the growth of betel nut. An area of 60 centimeters is enough for it to grow, and the plant can be harvested every one or two months, depending on the weather. It also reduces the trouble of removing weeds and controlling pests. As a result, the villagers' enthusiasm for planting pandan was ignited, and the cultivation area in the village quickly expanded.

Tang Minghan, 61, a villager who used to cultivate 0.2 of a hectare of pandan under his own betel nut forest in 2019, expanded the plantation area to 1.25 hectares in 2023. Last year, the cultivation area in the village reached 42 hectares, with the per capita income of Jiachang villagers hitting 23,100 yuan ($3,300), according to Fu.

Pandan is not only used in food, including cakes, mooncakes, cookies, coffee and milk tea, but is also incorporated into the production of hand sanitizers, essential oils, facial masks and other skincare products, according to Liu.

Its aroma also attracts more than 30,000 visitors and teenagers who come to the village for sightseeing and study every year, said Fu.

The village has also developed coffee shops, bookstores, leisure squares and rural stages to serve an increasing number of tourists.

"I brought my kids to experience pandan snacks, and they are very happy to carry small baskets, wear their caps, pick pandan leaves in the field and make the fragrant, sweet delicacies on their own," said Shi Ju, a tourist from Sichuan province.


Tropical Plant Pandan Transforms Village's Economy


Tropical Plant Pandan Transforms Village's Economy


Case Study