A sense of col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

My month in the coun­try­side was a rare op­por­tu­nity to spend an ex­tended pe­riod ob­serv­ing and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the lives of the res­i­dents of a re­mote vil­lage that is home to peo­ple from the Miao eth­nic group.

Be­fore I ar­rived in Shibadong, in Huayuan, Hu­nan prov­ince, I was ex­pect­ing to find a stereo­typ­i­cal ram­shackle vil­lage. At least, that’s what my knowl­edge and im­pres­sions of vil­lages in other poor, moun­tain­ous re­gions had led me to believe.

How­ever, dur­ing my in­ter­views with vil­lagers, I learned that Shibadong was in­deed once run-down, but that was sev­eral years ago.

Present-day Shibadong is to­tally dif­fer­ent, and it of­fered sur­prises from the be­gin­ning of my trip to the end.

The road to the vil­lage is a well-built black­top which zigzags along the moun­tain­side and over­looks a val­ley. The vil­lage is clean and tidy, and the tra­di­tional-style wooden houses are well main­tained. Lo­cated at the top of the moun­tain, the su­perb views, lush green­ery and clean air make the vil­lage a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for tourists.

How­ever, you have to learn from the vil­lagers’ own mouths how they and their an­ces­tors suf­fered from a lack of arable land, in­con­ve­nient trans­porta­tion links and a dearth of clean drink­ing wa­ter — the main causes of poverty.

That was be­fore the changes that have hap­pened in the past few years.

The first road ca­pa­ble of be­ing used by mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles was built in 2001 by mo­bi­liz­ing the en­tire vil­lage un­der the guid­ance of the old vil­lage chief Yang Wuyu. Be­fore that, only nar­row moun­tain paths ex­isted.

“We dug the road hoe by hoe, and it took three years to com­plete,” re­called Yang, adding that many se­nior vil­lagers used crutches to at­tend the com­ple­tion cer­e­mony, where they saw a car for the first time.

At the time, the vil­lage was still very iso­lated. When Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping paid a visit in 2013, he passed by the home of vil­lager Shi Basan and stopped to shake her hand. How­ever, the vil­lager, 64 at the time, didn’t rec­og­nize him and asked “How should I ad­dress you?” Her com­ment aroused sur­prise among by­standers.

Dur­ing his visit, Xi stressed the im­por­tance of “pre­ci­sion” in erad­i­cat­ing poverty, say­ing that poverty al­le­vi­a­tion should be based on real sit­u­a­tions, must be tar­geted at the right peo­ple and in­dus­tries, and ap­pro­pri­ate meth­ods should be used.

Since then, the lo­cal gov­ern­ment has en­deav­ored to ex­plore new meth­ods and de­velop suit­able in­dus­tries to elim­i­nate poverty in ar­eas such as Shibadong.

One of the big­gest projects is a col­lec­tively owned kiwi fruit plan­ta­tion, which was started in 2015 when the vil­lagers pooled the re­lief funds pro­vided by the gov­ern­ment — about 6,000 yuan ($884) per per­son — some of the vil­lagers’ own money and in­vest­ment from an agri­cul­tural com­pany.

With­out enough farm­land, they cre­atively trans­ferred land and rented about 67 hectares from an­other vil­lage. They then mort­gaged the land man­age­ment rights to se­cure a bank loan of about 10 mil­lion yuan so they could farm the ex­tra hectares. The kiwi trees will start bear­ing fruit this year, and the plan­ta­tion is even­tu­ally ex­pected to bring each vil­lager about 10,000 yuan ev­ery year.

As a reult of the grow­ing num­ber of tourists, many co­op­er­a­tives, such as one for rais­ing pigs and an­other to cul­ti­vate hon­ey­bees, are flour­ish­ing, as are fam­ily-based busi­nesses, such as home restau­rants.

In 2014, the orig­i­nal road was up­graded and widened to 6 me­ters, thanks to money from a special poverty al­le­vi­a­tion fund. The vil­lage in­fra­struc­ture and peo­ple’s homes have also been ren­o­vated via a joint pro­gram be­tween the lo­cal gov­ern­ment and the vil­lagers them­selves.

The great­est change, in ad­di­tion to the fi­nan­cial im­prove­ment, has taken place in the vil­lagers’ minds, ac­cord­ing to mem­bers of the poverty al­le­vi­a­tion team who live in Shibadong.

En­cour­aged by the im­prove­ments in the past few years, the vil­lagers are now con­fi­dent and op­ti­mistic, and they all as­pire to a bet­ter life through hard work.

“The vil­lagers are more co­op­er­a­tive and have a strong sense of par­tic­i­pa­tion be­cause they can see the blue­prints we promised sev­eral years ago grad­u­ally be­com­ing a re­al­ity,” said Shi Deng­gao, Party chief of the vil­lage.

The vil­lagers also have a strong sense of col­lec­tive honor. For ex­am­ple, they are will­ing to sac­ri­fice per­sonal or fam­ily in­ter­ests to ben­e­fit the whole vil­lage — one fam­ily gave up their farm­land to make way for public projects, in­clud­ing a public park­ing lot and the new road.

Con­tact the writer at li­ux­i­an­grui@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

WU HONGYAN / FOR CHINA DAILY

Liu Xian­grui speaks with a mem­ber of a Miao em­broi­dery and dress co­op­er­a­tive in Huayan, Hu­nan prov­ince.

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