From To Flourishing
A county in north China shakes off poverty by tapping into its potential By Yu Lintao & Lu Yan
There’s a well-known saying in Fuping County in Baoding, north China’s Hebei Province, “Ninety percent of Fuping’s land is mountains, 5 percent water and 5 percent arable land.” It is an apt way of describing the mountainous region. The total amount of arable land in the county is 219,000 mu (14,600 hectares), far from enough for the county’s population of 230,400.
Mainly due to its geographic conditions, the region is still on the list of the poorest counties in China. Among the 209 administrative villages in Fuping, 164 were classified as poor. In 2012, the county’s registered poverty-stricken population stands at around 110,000, or 48 percent of its total.
Nevertheless, the county has undergone profound change in the past five years. “The change is really remarkable for our town and the whole county in terms of infrastructure and people’s life,” a young taxi driver surnamed Li told Beijing Review.
Li is from the town of Fuping, which hosts the county government. According to Li, though his hometown still looks a little shabby, its infrastructure has improved a lot, and more people are coming to the county for leisure or business.
The changes started around five years ago when President Xi Jinping, who at the time was the newly-elected General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made an inspection tour of the county in late 2012. When meeting the villagers, Xi said that “the most arduous task facing China in completing the building of a moderately prosperous society is in rural areas, especially poverty-stricken regions.” Xi also stressed on many occasions that a welloff society cannot be achieved if people in old revolutionary base areas cannot shake off poverty. Fuping County is one such area.
“President Xi’s tour injected new vitality into the development of the county and its poverty alleviation efforts,” said Zhao Mintao, Vice Mayor of Fuping County.
Since Xi’s inspection, finding internal growth drivers has been a major research topic and key focus of the county, Zhao said.
As a mountainous county that had mainly relied on agriculture before, there are very few industrial bases and no suitable space for industrial development. As a result, the local government has turned to the region’s vast mountainous landscape.
What the mountains offer
Baiya Village in the town of Datai is located in a valley in central Fuping. The village has a population of around 2,400 and only 1,138 mu (76 hectares) of arable land. In contrast, the mountainous village spans a barren area of as much as 20,000 mu (1,333 hectares). Statistics show that more than half of the local villagers were living under the national poverty line in 2014.
“The only source of income for local villagers is farming,” Jia Baosheng, an official from Datai, told Beijing Review.
Jia said that in order to change these conditions, the local government decided to make full use of the mountainous areas after a scientific investigation in 2015.
“Agricultural experts said these areas can be used for agriculture after some development. We were very excited and set about implementing the land reclamation project,” said Jia.
Local villagers then became shareholders of the land reclamation project by transferring their land-use right to its investors.
Based on the local climate and land conditions, the previously barren land was transformed into areas suitable for modern agriculture, equipped with water-saving irrigation facilities. By the end of 2016, 3,000 mu (200 hectares) of mountainous area in the village had been turned into arable land, where apple trees, peach trees, cassia trees, peanuts and sweet potatoes were planted.
Villagers who participated in this project benefit the most from the scheme. Each year they earn a basic income of 1,000 yuan ($150) per household. Those who work for the venture, such as by planting seeds or digging, can have an extra income of 3,000 yuan ($450) or more. Moreover, when the project begins to pay off, the profit will be