Bringing Progress: new Bringinghope to renewedpoorest peoplehope to in Tibet’s harshest isolated environmentpoor
Measures Measures areare underway underway to to boost boost the the living living standards standards of of people peoplein thein the region’s region’s harshest isolated areas. areas
Like Sonam Tenzin, most of those badly affected by poverty live Sonamin the Tenzin region’s has margins,a clear understandingchallenged by of the what harsh modern natural material environmentwealth and would an underdevelopedmean to him: treatment transportationand medication infrastructurefor his elderly,that makes disabled traveling mother, difficult.and his aunt and uncle; money Nyima,to pay deputyhis mortgage;head of and the a Nyingchidecent educationoffice for povertyfor his two alleviation, sons. said isolation is one of the However,main problemsSonam livesfor thein Nyingchi,region’s pooresta prefecture-levelinhabitants. city “Somein the poverty-strickenpeople live on area high around mountainsthe Yarlungand others Zangboin deepRiver valleys basin, that where are makingtoo harsha living to has provide never beena decent easy. life. Many have Most long residentsbeen troubledof this impoverishedby illness or area disability,”in the southeasthe said, addingof the Tibet thatmuchof autonomousthe remainingregion live povertyon the inNyingchi,meager crops which they has growa populationon the sparseof about farmland 250,000, and centers earningson from householdsselling matsutake that lack able-bodied mushrooms workers.they pick in nearby However, forests. there are many
casesThe 27-year-oldin which villagersTibetan is don’tseparated try hard from enoughhis wife, to so he changesingle-handedly their lives, according supports toNyima,his sons and who his like three many aging Tibetans relatives. uses just “We one are name.just getting by. After all, “WeI have have to been manage trying all to set the a financialgood exampleins and and outs introducemyself,” he them said. to good programs, but
those Last year, with the the family’s initiative situation to improve went their from own bad livesto worse have when probably their alreadyhouse was done severelyso,” he damagedsaid. by fire. Despite help from a support fund established by the regional government, Sonam The had regionalto take governmentout a bank loan has of set 60,000the goal yuan of ($8,690) eradicatingto repair poverty the by building. 2020. During the next Authoritiesfive years, it estimateplans to investthat 590,00018 billion people yuan — ($2.5 about billion)20 percent in 1,216 of Tibet’s development population programs,— still live most belowof whichthe government’sare designed designated to provide annual employment poverty opportunitiesthreshold of 2,300for the yuan less in disposablewell-off or income. helpthemto establish cooperatives. Like Sonam Tenzin, most of those Meanwhile,badly affectedthe by authoritiespoverty live will in movethe region’s about margins, 236,000 challenged impoverishedby the harsh people natural into environment resettlement and projects,an underdevelopedand a loan of transportationmore than 38 infrastructure billion yuan has that been makes obtained traveling to difficult. finance the process.
Nyima,The new deputy dwellingshead of havethe Nyingchibeen well-receivedoffice for bymany poverty villagers. alleviation,In Lhasa’ssaid isolationQuxu county,is one of the the local main authorities problems have for relocatedthe region’s 172householdstoSanyoupoorest inhabitants. village, “Some where people they live live on in high newly mountainsbuilt two-storyand others housesin deep that valleyswere that fully are too furnishedharsh to provide long beforea decentthe occupantslife. Many arrived. have long Dashon,been troubleda 52-year-oldby illness resident,or disability,” said he that said, in addingthe past that she muchand herof the family remaininghad to poverty shelter in in Nyingchi,a neighbor’s which house has whenevera population it rained.of about 250,000, centers on “Our householdshouse couldthat lack have ablebodied collapsed workers.at any minute, and we often However, feared therefor our are safety,” many she cases said. in which villagers don’t try Sonamhard enough Dekyi, to a change governmenttheir lives, official accordingin Sanyou,to Nyima,said villagerswho like manyvote Tibetansto determineuses just whichone name. families will be allowed to move “We into have the beennew settlement.trying to set “Wea good constantlyexample and remindintroduce them them that movingto good here programs,is the but start thoseof their with newthe initiativelives. Theyto improveshould not their be own satisfiedlives have with probablythe status alreadyquo,” she done said. so,” he said. In the coming five years, the regional authorities will also Developmentprovide part-time goalsjobs, such as forestThe regional ranger governmentposts, has for set 500,000the goal people.of eradicating poverty Lu by Huadong,2020. During deputy the headnext fiveof the years, Tibet it povertyplans to alleviationinvest 18 billion office, yuan said ($2.5 the billion) governmentin 1,216 developmenthas now entered programs,the personalmost of which details are of designed 590,000 to officiallyprovide employmentdesignated opportunities poverty-strickenfor the peopleless well-offin its archives.or help them to establish “Wehave cooperatives. identified 11 different Meanwhile,factors that the help authoritiesto explain will why move these about people 236,000live in impoverished poverty, and people different into measures resettlement will projects,be adopted and fora loan differentof more people than and38 billion different yuan householdshas been obtainedto help liftto financethem out the of process. poverty,” The he new said. dwellings have been well-receivedPenpa, a by 48-year-oldmany villagers. resident In Lhasa’sof Quxu Bayi county, townshipthe local in authoritiesNyingchi, describedhave relocated himself 172 as householdsbeing “weak to as Sanyoua hen” village,after a where long-term they live stomachin newly ailment.built two-storyHe spends houses about that 10,000 were yuanfully furnishedon medical long bills before everythe occupants year, and has arrived.a 70,000 yuan mortgage Dashon, after a building 52-year-olda resident, new house saidin that 2014 in to the replacepast she the and wood her cabin familyhe sharedhad to with shelter his in wife.a neighbor’s house whenever it rained. However, because he chose private“Our house clinics couldover publichave hospitalscollapsed heat any has waived minute, his and rightwe oftento claim feared medicalfor our insurance.safety,” she said. With the help of the authorities, Sonam Penpa Dekyi,and eighta governmentother villagers official in set Sanyou,up a cooperativesaid villagers to vote raise to Tibetan determine chickens.which families will “We’rebe allowed desperatelyto move poor,into the but newI definitely settlement. don’t want to stay this “We way,” constantlyhe said. remind them that Meanwhile,moving here in is Sonamthe start Tenzin’sof their new village, lives. the They local should authoritiesnot be satisfiedhave with helped the status11 povertystrickenquo,” she said. households to establishIn the cominga cooperativefive years,to raisethe regionalpigs. authorities will also provideHe saidhecouldhavemadeapart-time jobs, such as forest much ranger larger posts, income for if 500,000he had people. migrated to an urban area in searchLu Huadong, ofemploymentopportunities.“ButIhavepeopletodeputy head of the Tibet poverty alleviation take office,care of. said Whatthe governmentif they got sickhas now while enteredI was absent?”the personalhe said. details of 590,000 Instead, officiallyhe has been designated offered poverty-strickena job as a forest ranger, people whichin its archives.will guarantee an annual income“We haveof about identified 3,00011 different yuan. He factorsalso has thatan occasionalhelp to explain parttime why thesejob peopleas a taxi live in driver poverty, for and tourists different bound measuresfor the Yarlungwill be adopted Zangbo for River. different people and different However, households Sonam to help Tenzinlift themsaid outhe of still poverty,”fears thehe said. worsecase Penpa, scenario:a 48-year-oldThat a resident relative of will Bayibe hit townshipby a seriousin Nyingchi, illness describedand the medical himself bills as will being be “weak beyond as hisa hen” means. after a long-term stomach“I don’t ailment.think anyoneHe spends would aboutlend me 10,000 any yuan money. on It medical would billsbe naturalevery year, for and them has toa 70,000 doubt yuanmy ability mortgageto repay after them,” building he a said. new house in 2014 to replace the wood cabin he shared with his wife.
However,The real challengebecause he for chose the private authorities clinicsin over their public poverty-alleviationhospitals he has efforts waivedlies in his workingright to claimout how medical poor insurance. households can be With helped the tomakehelp of a the living authorities, without governmentPenpa and eight assistance. other villagers Nyima,set up the a official, cooperative voicedto raise concerns Tibetan about chickens.the potential side “We’re effects desperatelyof providing poor, poverty-strickenbut I definitely don’t familieswant to with stay freethis way,” resettlement.he said.
Meanwhile,“The governmentin Sonam definitelyTenzin’s has village,good intentions.the local authorities Despite have that, helped people 11 who poverty-strickenhave managed householdsto breakto establishout of povertya cooperative through to raise their pigs. own efforts mightHe said think he that could some have othersmade a did much nothing larger but incomestill managedif he had migratedto move to into an spaciousurban area newin search homes of and employmentwill simply opportunities. accept another “But subsidyI haveat the people end to of takethe year,” care he of. said. What if they got sick “Some while I peoplewas absent?”just do he nothingsaid. Instead,and thinkhe has the been governmentoffered a job will as takea forest care ranger,of them, which anyway,”will guaranteehe added.an annual “Stopping income theof about resettlement3,000 yuan. projectsHe also has froman occasionalturning into part-timeslums is job at as thea taxi top driverof our for agenda.” tourists bound for the YarlungIn one Zangbo resettlementRiver. project in However,an urban Sonamarea of Tenzin Nyingchi,said he the still authoritiesfears the worse-casehave set scenario: an entry conditionThat a relativethat requireswill be hit poor by householdsa serious illnessto haveand the at medicalleast one bills personwill be workingbeyond his in means.the area before they are allowed“I don’t to think move anyonein. Migrantswould lendare alsome any allowed money. to It keep would thebe natural farmland for themthey to have doubt leftmy ability behind. to repay them,” he said.
The Despite real his challenge excellent for academicthe authorities performance,in their the povertyalleviation need to support effortshis familylies in forcedworking Sonam out how Tenzin poor to householdsdrop out can beforebe he helped finishedto make high a school.living withoutNow, his governmentdearest wish assistance.is that his “The children governmentwill receiveaneducationdefinitely has good good intentions.enough Despiteto help that, them peoplelive up whoto their have potential. managed to break “Every out timeof I poverty aminvited throughto a their gatheringown effortsof my might junior think high that school some classmates,others did I nothing always but refuse. still We managedwere veryto move close, into but spaciousnow we new live homesvery differentand will simplylives,” he accept said. another subsidy at “I the just end hopemyof the year,” children Nyima will said.not be in the same position as me “Somein the people future.” just do nothing and think the government will take Contact care the of writersthem, anyway,” through he added. email@example.com“Stopping the resettlement projects from turning into slums is at the top of our agenda.”
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The growing interest in Tibetan Buddhism among Han Chinese has presented a unique business opportunity for Dawa Phuntsok, who is the major shareholder in a factory that makes Tibetan incense in Nyingchi, a prefecturecity in the Tibet autonomous region.
Revenue at the factory, which began operations in June, has already hit 70,000 yuan ($10,000) thanks to booming sales among locals and via online marketplaces.
“We are expecting more revenue from our online channels, and we have received lots of positive feedback from clients in Guangdong and Fujian provinces,” Dawa said.
In Tibetan medicine, incense is a recognized treatment for a number of illnesses and as a sterilizing agent it can also be used as an antibiotic. Its use is also integral to Tibetan Buddhist rituals.
Dawa, a former lumberjack, started from scratch 10 years ago when he set up a business that supplied gravel to construction companies. When business dried up, he began looking for his next venture, and he found inspiration at home.
“I discovered a recipe for Tibetan incense that had been left by my grandfather. I only saw him making incense when I was a child, but I decided to try the recipe myself,” the 40-year-old said.
His experiment was successful, and he decided to set up a business making incense sticks.
It’s impossible for the poverty-relief efforts to reach everybody, so people need to stand on their own two feet.”
of ecological resources provides Dawa with a rich supply of medicinal herbs, which are important ingredients in Tibetan incense.
He set up the factory, located in a village near a national highway, as a joint venture with 10 fellow villagers and obtained a loan of about 1 million yuan through the regional government’s poverty-relief program. The factory employs four people from designated poverty-stricken households, who earn 1,000 yuan for seven days’ work every month.
Dawa hopes that as the business expands, the workers will gain skills that will eventually allow them to support themselves.
“It’s impossible for the poverty-relief efforts to reach everybody, so people need to stand on theirowntwo feet. I just hope they can learn about the importance of being open-minded and taking the initiative to improve their lives,” he said.
Farmers plow before sowing their crops near a wild peach wood in Nyingchi, a prefecture-level city in the Tibet autonomous region, in April. Every spring, thousands of tourists descend on the city to view the blossoms, providing job opportunities for local residents.
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