Farm­house restau­rant shows new vi­sion as lum­ber econ­omy shifts

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHENG JINRAN

Liu Tong­tao was sur­prised to find that his vil­lage could at­tract thou­sands of vis­i­tors an­nu­ally, mak­ing his life bet­ter than dur­ing his days as a lum­ber­jack.

He was busy pre­par­ing lunch for more than 30 vis­i­tors at his farm restau­rant on July 11, a Tues­day, even be­fore the busiest time on week­ends from July to Septem­ber.

“Dur­ing peak pe­ri­ods, we have more than 200 cus­tomers at lunch, forc­ing us run back and forth from the kitchen to the din­ing house,” said the 38-year-old res­i­dent of Xishui, a small for­est farm in Yichun, Hei­longjiang prov­ince.

Last year, Liu’s fam­ily earned more than 100,000 yuan ($14,900) from the farm­house restau­rant, an amount unimag­in­able 20 years ago when the fam­ily strug­gled just to make a ba­sic liv­ing, he said.

“I had to work out­side jobs, like on con­struc­tion sites, be­cause there were no jobs for me in my home­town,” he said.

In the 1990s, Yichun faced a se­vere cri­sis: With dwin­dling forests and an eco­nomic re­ces­sion af­ter decades of ex­ces­sive log­ging since the 1950s, many young peo­ple at the time, like Liu, had to leave to find work.

In ad­di­tion, af­ter the strict ban on log­ging for com­mer­cial use in 2013, there were too many work­ers, ac­cord­ing to Mayor Han Ku. The city had to ar­range new jobs for 74,000 work­ers, he said.

“It’s the city gov­ern­ment’s re­spon­si­bil­ity to make sure every one of them has a job,” he added.

Liu’s fa­ther, Liu Yang­shun, 64, has worked at the small for­est farm for more than four decades — as a wood­cut­ter for the first 20 years, and help­ing to pre­serve the for­est for the last 20.

An­other 29,000 work­ers have also shifted their roles from de­struc­tion to pro­tec­tion, ac­cord­ing to city gov­ern­ment data. In ad­di­tion, 13,000 work­ers found new liveli­hoods in plant­ing prod­ucts such as mush­rooms. An­other 13,000 found jobs in Rus­sia. Ninety-two per­cent of the laid­off work­ers have been able to find new po­si­tions, the city’s fig­ures show.

“The shift not only gave us new jobs but new at­ti­tudes to­ward the en­vi­ron­ment,” said Liu Tong­tao. “We can make money by not de­stroy­ing it.”

Li Hui, a res­i­dent of Yichun, in­vited more than 30 friends to the for­est park near Xishui and treated them to lo­cal cui­sine at Liu’s farm restau­rant.

“The green for­est and the good en­vi­ron­ment are the best gift for my friends, and they’re very sat­is­fied,” Li said. “And I’m sat­is­fied with the re­birth of my home­town.”

in Yichun, Hei­longjiang prov­ince, needed new jobs af­ter a ban on com­mer­cial log­ging took ef­fect in 2013.

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