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Some of the biggest users of live streaming in China are not teenagers, they’re farmers

Taobao wants to help farmers live stream themselves out of poverty

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

When most people think about countryside life, they envision plowing fields, feeding farm animals, and other grueling work. But China is seeing a new type of farm work becoming popular: Live streaming.

Live streaming?

Yup, farmers live streaming their work has become a hit in China -- so much so that one of the country's biggest ecommerce platforms has set up a special program to train them. Alibaba has announced that it's planning a special poverty alleviation programme for Taobao sellers in the countryside, including incubating 1000 farmer live streamers.

(Abacus is a unit of the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.)

Taobao introduced live streaming to its app in 2016, and since then it has seen an explosion of live streamers selling everything from the latest fashion brands to gourmet insect larvae. It has since become a new way for farmers in China’s poor rural areas to reach customers. In the last three years, around 100,000 live streamers have promoted farm products on Taobao, according to the company.

One live streamer recently managed to sell a million kilos of oranges in just 13 days by live streaming, according to reports. Chen Jiubei, who goes under the username of Xiangxi Jiumei, streams herself on Taobao doing farm work, talking about her cured meat or eggs, or just making meals in her humble countryside home.
Chen Jiubei (aka Xiangxi Jiumei) live streams on Taobao’s platform from her village in western Hunan province in China. (Picture: Taobao)

And in the meantime, other platforms have joined the countryside streaming trend, including Kuaishou. This is very different from the US and Europe, where live-streaming and ecommerce platforms are still worlds apart.

Chinese short video apps want to make us shop

So what draws people to peek into village life? Some people tune in to check out where the product they're buying is coming from, with sellers reassuring them that farm products are grown in a natural way in an area without pollution – something that is becoming increasingly important for Chinese shoppers.

Others tune in to be entertained, or just because they miss the countryside life. In both cases, farmers can up their sales significantly. And sometimes the farmers can even become web celebs.

A pair of farmer brothers raising bamboo rats, a type of rodent considered a delicacy in South China, has become a meme after their vlog on the Watermelon Video platform went viral.

In each video, the two brothers come up with a hilarious reason why a particular bamboo rat should be eaten. It's either feeling a bit sickly, not handling hot weather too well, it's too fat or too skinny -- or it's just too darn pretty. There's just no escaping its destiny once it's been chosen.
“I’m not pretty, I’m the ugliest one among us.” “The ugly ones are tasty.” (Picture: Weibo)

The brothers’ peculiar selection criteria have become so popular it has been actually made into a mobile game. Not only that, the sales of the rodents have shot up, inspiring other farmers to try their luck in live streaming.

Why are Chinese tech companies so much into raising pigs?

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.