Tourism lifts his­toric Ti­betan vil­lage of song out of poverty

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET -

Born into a poverty-stricken house­hold in Dag­dong vil­lage, the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion, Kel­sang Jampa never imag­ined that one day he would own a new house with a neat court­yard.

He moved into his new twos­tory house, built by the side of his old home, just be­fore Ti­betan New Year, which fell on Feb 27.

On the hill­side in front of his home are the ru­ins of the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gy­atso’s manor. Dag­dong, a tra­di­tional farm­ing vil­lage on the out­skirts of Lhasa, was men­tioned in a famed love poem by the Dalai Lama that men­tions the hill where his manor was lo­cated.

More than 20 per­cent of the vil­lage’s pop­u­la­tion of 800 peo­ple are reg­is­tered as im­pov­er­ished. A year ago, Jampa and his five fam­ily mem­bers were still liv­ing on an an­nual so­cial se­cu­rity grant of 6,000 yuan ($870).

How­ever, thanks to the cen­tral gov­ern­ment’s poverty-al­le­vi­a­tion cam­paign, Dag­dong has started to change.

Ac­cord­ing to Jampa, the vil­lage stayed much the same for decades un­til April last year, when a tourism com­pany was jointly founded by two lo­cal com­pa­nies, with sup­port from the Niu town­ship gov­ern­ment.

New roads have been built, walls re­painted and re­sort ho­tels and camp­sites have ap­peared.

Along with the im­proved in­fra­struc­ture, an in­creas­ing num­ber of tourists from across the world have rushed to visit the an­cient vil­lage.

Tourists camp in front of the ru­ins of Tsangyang Gy­atso’s manor, visit the 900-year-old peach tree there and look around the an­cient tem­ples in the vil­lage.

Since most Ti­betans pre­fer not to mi­grate for work, the younger vil­lagers have viewed the tourism boom as a good op­por­tu­nity for them to make money in their home­town.

Jampa’s new house was built as part of a tourism project, which pro­vided work for his son — trans­port­ing con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als.

“My son will take his driv­ing test soon. With a driver’s li­cense, he can earn money trans­port­ing ma­te­ri­als. I will rent out a room in my new house to a yo­gurt pro­cess­ing mill, which will bring me a monthly rent of 2,000 yuan,” Jampa said.

This year, the an­nual in­come of his fam­ily is ex­pected to sur­pass 40,000 yuan.

“My name will even­tu­ally be in­cluded on the list of house­holds who have cast off poverty,” Jampa said.

An­other vil­lager, 70-year-old Cho­nyi Dechen, said she never imag­ined her son would find a job in a lo­cal or­chard.

Tourism has cre­ated va­can­cies for clean­ers, se­cu­rity guards and wait­ers that vil­lagers can now fill.

Sta­tis­tics from the re­gional tourism devel­op­ment com­mis­sion show that the re­gion’s in­vest­ment in tourism and tourism-re­lated poverty al­le­vi­a­tion projects to­taled more than 600 mil­lion yuan last year, bring­ing ben­e­fits to over 40,000 im­pov­er­ished peo­ple in the re­gion.

The re­gional gov­ern­ment hopes that by the end of 2020, all farmers and herds­men en­gaged in tourism will be able to earn an av­er­age an­nual in­come of 16,000 yuan.

“This year, we will spend 90 mil­lion yuan to build a ho­tel and a hot spring re­sort,” said Tob­gye, head of the town­ship.

It is es­ti­mated that Dag­dong will re­ceive 150,000 tourists this year, bring­ing 40,000 to 60,000 yuan in rev­enue for each fam­ily.

“Vil­lagers find hope in the tourism in­dus­try. We are not far from the day when we can com­pletely get rid of poverty,” Tob­gye said.

One month ago, dozens of hectares of peach trees were planted by the ru­ins of Tsangyang Gy­atso’s manor in Dag­dong with fi­nan­cial sup­port from the Niu town­ship gov­ern­ment.

The vil­lage will hold its first peach flower fes­ti­val in May.

Vil­lagers find hope in the tourism in­dus­try. We are not far from the day when we can com­pletely get rid of poverty.”

Ti­betan res­i­dents at the Kala vil­lage in Ny­ingchi have an archery con­test in March.

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