Every day, villagers in Yibin County, southwest China's Sichuan Province, go into the hills to collect fallen leaves from camphor trees. The little leave has become their money spinner.
Fan Dechang, a resident of Hefeng Village, has hired several laborers to collect the leaves that have fallen from his over three-hectare camphor grove.
"Almost everyone in Hefeng is picking up camphor leaves," said Fan.
Fan made over 100,000 yuan (16,000 U.S. dollars) out of his grove last year. On average, villagers earned 14,000 yuan each from the leaves, and the total income it generated for the village was more than 10 million yuan last year.
Yang Jingwen used to be a migrant worker. One year he saved as much as possible and brought home 70,000 yuan, only to find his wife had earned more by collecting and selling leaves.
"I decided to stay at home after that," he said. Now his family can make more than 200,000 yuan from camphor leaves, or more exactly, the camphor oil contained in its leaves.
Camphor oil has been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, acne, inflammation, muscular aches and pains. The oil can be extracted after distillation and rectification.
"The price for camphor oil has exceeded 120 yuan per kilo, I believe we will earn a good income this year," said Fan.
Not only Hefeng villagers, by nearby residents now all make a living thanks to camphor trees. Wu Shenkuan, from Qixing Village, earns 100 yuan a day by sweeping the leaves together, while Liu Zhengqin of Yuexi Village can make 120 yuan bagging them.
"I used to work away from home in Guangdong, now I can make enough money without leaving home," said Liu.
Yibin County was once covered with tea bushes, but due to low profits they were later replaced with camphor trees. Now the county has a total of 21,000 hectares of camphor groves, and produced over 10,000 tonnes of camphor oil last year, according to Wang Enping, chief engineer at the local forestry bureau. The total output value of the local camphor processing industry was 1.5 billion yuan in 2017, Wang added.
Song Tao, an official from the local government, said Yibin is introducing three enterprises to develop camphor oil products with higher added value.
"Only by moving up the camphor industry to high-quality development can local residents have a stable, long-term source of income," Song said.