TARGETED POVERTY RELIEF PAYS OFF
Poor families in rural Tibet receive new homes, employment, education to build a better life
It’s early autumn in Amdo county, the Tibet autonomous region and the 41-year-old Shokpo is heading out to clean the windows of his new government-provided house.
At an average altitude of more than 4,700 meters above sea level, the air in Amdo is chilly and Shokpo and his wife Zetee plan to move into their new home soon.
Altogether, 55 of the county’s poverty-stricken families, 121 people in total, are being relocated from 13 townships to a government-financed residential community in the county town as part of relief efforts.
Shokpo’s family were selected to be part of the project because they are one of the poorest in No 4 village, Thangnak township.
They own five yaks and 15 sheep, which have about 1,300 square meters of grassland to graze on. Their only other income comes from Shokpo’s job at the local train station, while Zetee works as a waitress in a restaurant.
One of their children studies at the county’s high school, while the other is at school in Lhasa, the regional capital.
“We rented a house in the county town, because I need to take care of my daughter who studies there,” Shokpo said.
Before that, he used to live in a remote village at an altitude of 5,000 meters, with poor vehicular access and only basic public services.
“I want to say a heartfelt thank you to the government for providing us with a new house, because now we no longer need to rent a house in the town,” said Zetee, 43.
“We used to live in an adobe house on the grasslands. It was very cold, especially in winter and it was small and always hard to keep tidy.”
She said she had only ever dreamed of living in such an expensive house, which cost the government more than 300,000 yuan ($43,400) to build.
Bai Yucheng, director of the Amdo poverty alleviation bureau, said that relocated residents could find work more easily in the county town than in their home villages.
“A commercial rental project will provide buildings that residents can use to either operate their own businesses or lease to other people,” he said.
“In addition, relocated residents will be able to work in hotels and at car washes in the county town. They will also find jobs in hotels, concrete batching plants and on transport teams.”
Poor families receive government funding for protecting the grasslands, water resources and wildlife, and there is also an education payment scheme.
“In terms of education, 15 college students have received funding in our county, and each gets 5,000 yuan a year,” Bai said. “There are also funds for people who cannot pay their medical bills from their medical insurance.”
Amdo county has a population of about 40,000, spread across 9,582 households, 2,677 of which live below the poverty line, according to official figures. This year, 143 of these households were relocated.
Other areas such as Sangrong township in Nyanrong county, are similarly affected by high rates of poverty.
“The government not only formulated preferential poverty alleviation policies but also carried out some measures to improve the locals’ income according to the local conditions,” said Kunsang Dorjee, Party secretary of Sangrong.
A company producing construction materials, which was invited to operate in the township’s No 7 village, now employs more than 20 villagers. As part of its contract, it must pay the township 420,000 yuan in the first year and 50,000 yuan each year thereafter, which will be used as a poverty relief fund.
The township’s poorest families, some of whom have only 10 sheep, will have their medical expenses paid for and an agricultural cooperative will be set up so that they can pool their resources and sell milk, cheese and meat for a profit.
“We hope the people can benefit from the cooperative as a sustainable project,” Kungsang Dorjee said.
Thirteen of Sangrong’s villagers earn extra income by working as wildlife rangers for 2,800 yuan per year, while three college-age children are supported in their studies by a government education fund.
With the goal of building a moderately prosperous society by 2020, President Xi Jinping initiated targeted poverty alleviation in November 2013, and in July 2014 Tibet issued the relevant documents and requirements on how to carry out the work.
“More than 140,000 impoverished residents in the region were moved off the poverty line by the end of September 2016,” said Lu Huadong, deputy director of the Tibet Poverty Alleviation Office.
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Shokpo and Zetee clean the windows of their new house provided by the government in the county town of Amdo, the Tibet autonomous region.
Tibetan nomads work at a government-funded cooperative, which produces wood quilts at the Qinglong township, Tibet’s Palgon county.