Chi­nese vil­lagers work to break ‘iso­la­tion’ curse

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - XIN­HUA

“CURSED by devils” – that is what the lo­cals say about Qibain­ong.

Named after the rugged karst land­forms that sur­round it, the town­ship has been iden­ti­fied as one of the most in­hos­pitable places on earth by UN of­fi­cials.

Gi­ant fun­nel-like de­pres­sions dot the land­scape, drain­ing all the water to the bot­tom — the only place where humans can sur­vive in this part of Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion.

More than 1 300 such fun­nels cover the re­gion, some more than 300m deep. The harsh land­forms have trapped 20 000 res­i­dents in ex­treme poverty for decades. Now half the pop­u­la­tion still lives be­low the poverty line.

Rooftop pools and two small ponds built 15 years ago col­lect rain­wa­ter – their only source of drink­ing water.

“The water is not clean, but we have no other choice,” vil­lager Qin Hong­guan told Xin­hua.

Scat­tered patches of arable land, some only the size of a few hands, sup­port lim­ited crops – mostly corn. But the food grown here is never enough to feed the lo­cals.

De­spite the se­vere food short­age, fam­i­lies are big.

Most res­i­dents are of the Yao eth­nic mi­nor­ity and were never sub­ject to China’s one-child pol­icy. Due to the old no­tion that more chil­dren bring more bless­ings, it is not rare to see fam­i­lies with more than five chil­dren. One young man in his mid30s is al­ready the fa­ther of eight chil­dren.

Many chil­dren are left be­hind without proper school­ing when their par­ents go else­where to work. Without proper care, their lives prom­ise lit­tle more than those of their par­ents.

A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of ham­lets in the town­ship still do not have roads. Res­i­dents run er­rands on horse­back.

How­ever, change is ex­pected soon. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are build­ing roads for ev­ery vil­lage with more than 20 house­holds. Re­lo­ca­tion has been pro­posed for those who live in ex­tremely re­mote areas.

Yanyan vil­lage got its first road in 2015, and Yang Lan­gang is more than happy to see the con­struc­tion of her first brick-and-con­crete house.

“We had to live in a ramshackle wooden house for 30 years be­cause it was im­pos­si­ble to trans­port steel bars and ce­ment here,” she said.

New busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties come with the new roads.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments in­vested one mil­lion Yuan (R2mil­lion) to build a 1000m² scor­pion farm last year.

It has al­ready re­lieved poverty for 10 house­holds. Scor­pi­ons are sold for high prices in China as food and medicine.

The gov­ern­ments are also en­cour­ag­ing lo­cals to raise chick­ens by of­fer­ing poor house­holds sub­si­dies and div­i­dends. Qibain­ong res­i­dents are rais­ing a to­tal of 160000 chick­ens, which can sell for about 100 Yuan each.

These ef­forts lifted 389 house­holds out of poverty last year, and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties plan to bring all peo­ple out of poverty by 2018.

China, the world’s largest de­vel­op­ing na­tion, aims to lift all of its poor out of poverty by 2020. “Most im­por­tant is find­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate in­dus­try that fits the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment and gives res­i­dents an in­come,” said Yang Long­wen, a lo­cal of­fi­cial.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

A farmer drives his buf­falo to plough a paddy field in Dax­i­ang vil­lage, Guangxi Zhuang Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion, China.

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