Zuo­quan, a county in Shanxi Prov­ince, looks for­ward to a bet­ter life with poverty al­le­vi­a­tion projects

Newsweek - - World -

Hao Ai­hong, a 48-year-old farmer in Zuo­quan County in north China’s Shanxi Prov­ince, couldn’t con­ceal his ex­cite­ment when talk­ing about his new home: a 100-square-me­ter apart­ment with a spa­cious liv­ing room and three bed­rooms. Be­cause of a leg dis­abil­ity, Hao is un­able to work, leav­ing his wife to earn a pal­try salary as a wait­ress in a lo­cal res­tau­rant.

“Now, my fam­ily doesn’t have to live in rented spa­ces or travel long dis­tances from our shabby cot­tage to work. All I paid for our new home was 10,000 yuan ($1,400),” Hao said. The mar­ket price of the apart­ment is about 500,000 yuan ($71,750), a for­mi­da­ble ĶJXUH IRU D ORZ LQFRPH IDPLO\

Zuo­quan is one of China’s 592 im­pov­er­ished coun­ties. Dur­ing the 13th Five-year Plan (2016-20) pe­riod of the coun­try, more than 4,500 peo­ple will move into apart­ments OLNH +DROV 7KH ĶUVW EDWFK RI YLOODJHUV KDG Uhor­cated by Novem­ber 20.

“Af­ter the re­set­tle­ment, job op­por­tu­ni­ties will be of­fered to poverty-stricken peo­ple. A se­ries of poverty re­duc­tion projects have been car­ried out to help them get em­ploy­ment at plan­ta­tions, live­stock farms and in­dus­trial work­shops,” said Wang Hongchang, Deputy Sec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of China (CPC) Zuo­quan County Com­mit­tee. He stressed that there should be a fo­cus on pre­vent­ing pop­u­la­tions that have shaken off poverty from slid­ing back into it.

En­sur­ing a liveli­hood

Poverty al­le­vi­a­tion re­lo­ca­tion projects are part of the ef­forts to re­duce over­all poverty in the county. By the end of 2017, roughly 80 vil­lages in Zuo­quan had got rid of poverty, with the in­ci­dence de­clin­ing to 11.89 per­cent. Ac­cord­ing to county gov­ern­ment plans, this year, an­other 44 vil­lages will step out of poverty, with the in­ci­dence fur­ther drop­ping by 0.51 per­cent­age points, in step to meet­ing the county’s tar­get of over­com­ing poverty.

The Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment has set a tar­get to elim­i­nate ab­so­lute poverty by 2020. More VSHFLĶFDOO\ DOO SRYHUW\ VWULFNHQ SRSXODWLRQV LQ ru­ral China will be guar­an­teed food and cloth­ing, com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion, ba­sic med­i­cal care and hous­ing se­cu­rity and will see their per-capita dis­pos­able in­come grow at a faster pace than the na­tional av­er­age while gain­ing ac­cess to ba­sic pub­lic ser­vices. When that is achieved, all im­pov­er­ished ru­ral res­i­dents will be lifted out of poverty and over­all re­gional poverty will be erad­i­cated.

To­day, elder peo­ple in Zuo­quan’s Lichang Vil­lage are used to hav­ing three meals a day at a se­nior care cen­ter which pro­vides free meals for lo­cal vil­lagers over 65 years old. Es­tab­lished in Novem­ber 2014, the se­nior care cen­ter’s op­er­a­tional costs are funded mainly by lo­cal poverty al­le­vi­a­tion in­dus­tries.

In June this year, the Zuo­quan and Lichang col­lec­tives in­vested 700,000 yuan ($101,678) and 46,000 yuan ($6,700), re­spec­tively, to build a 100-kilo­watt pho­to­voltaic so­lar project for the vil­lage. It can gen­er­ate 400 kilo­watt hours of power per day, yield­ing D SURĶW RI \XDQ D \HDU

In ad­di­tion to the col­lec­tive project, there are also roof-mounted so­lar pan­els on vil­lage houses. Liu Ai­jun, a farmer who lives with his wife and two chil­dren, earns about 7,000 yuan ($1,000) per year from the so­lar pan­els in­stalled on the roof of their house.

“I got a 200,000-yuan ($29,100) in­ter­est­free loan from the lo­cal gov­ern­ment,” Liu Ai­jun said. His blue pan­els have cre­ated steady wealth for his fam­ily.

Liu is now mulling over the idea of pur­chas­ing three cat­tle and run­ning a small live­stock farm. “We should not rely en­tirely on gov­ern­ment sup­port, but also try to get rich on our own,” he said.

Free food and cloth­ing for the el­derly, im­proved med­i­cal in­sur­ance and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion loans are guar­an­tees of a bet­ter life due to the poverty re­duc­tion projects run by the vil­lage col­lec­tive.

Lichang also ben­e­fits from as­sis­tance to Zuo­quan from the Bei­jing-based China In­ter­na­tional Pub­lish­ing Group. The county re­ceived more than 730,000 yuan ($106,000) WR EXLOG D GXFN IHHGORW ZKLFK PDNHV D SURĶW of about 500,000 yuan ($72,700) an­nu­ally.

The money is used mainly to sup­port im­pov­er­ished vil­lagers who are un­able to work and to pay for the in­ci­den­tal ex­penses of the vil­lage col­lec­tive, said Song.

“In ad­di­tion to these ex­ist­ing projects, we are also pre­pared to ex­plore other in­dus­tries. The aim is not just to elim­i­nate poverty, but also to re­al­ize col­lec­tive pros­per­ity,” said Song Xian­glin, Sec­re­tary of the CPC Lichang Vil­lage Branch.

Stand­ing on their own feet

To al­le­vi­ate poverty, com­plete in­fra­struc­ture is a must, while equal at­ten­tion must be given to eco­log­i­cal con­ser­va­tion. With this in mind, many con­struc­tion teams have been formed to ad­vance land recla­ma­tion, im­prove agri­cul­tural wa­ter con­ser­vancy and en­gage in re­for­esta­tion. Most of the work­ers re­cruited into these teams are poor vil­lagers.

Liu Yuem­ing, a 60-year-old farmer who used to sub­sist on grow­ing corn, is now a mem­ber of the Muchen af­foresta­tion co­op­er­a­tive, where 60 per­cent of the work­force comes from im­pov­er­ished house­holds.

“I earned more than 20,000 yuan ($2,900) this year by plant­ing and main­tain­ing trees in the moun­tains. Work­ing on the team has helped me throw off poverty,” said Liu Yuem­ing, adding that it is hard for a man of KLV DJH WR ĶQG D MRE LQ WRZQV RU FLWLHV

Song Wen­bin, Man­ager of the co­op­er­a­tive, said of his 20-mem­ber team, 13 are from poverty-stricken homes, earn­ing an av­er­age an­nual in­come of 15,000 yuan ($2,200) per per­son.

Be­fore start­ing con­struc­tion work, his team pays a de­posit of 300,000 yuan ($43,600) to guar­an­tee that pref­er­en­tial con­sid­er­a­tion is given to im­pov­er­ished house­holds in the re­cruit­ment of work­ers. For agri­cul­tural wa­ter con­ser­vancy and land recla­ma­tion teams, cash de­posits are 500,000 yuan and 1 mil­lion yuan ($145,400), re­spec­tively.

Cur­rently, 97 con­struc­tion teams have been formed across the county, em­ploy­ing more than 3,000 im­pov­er­ished peo­ple. Im­proved wa­ter con­ser­vancy fa­cil­i­ties, re­claimed land and af­forested moun­tains will lead to more than 9,000 peo­ple be­ing lifted out of poverty in the near fu­ture.

Zuo­quan is also set­ting its sights on modern agri­cul­ture. Com­pared to tra­di­tional veg­etable grow­ing, green­house cul­ti­va­tion can pre­vent plant dis­eases and harm­ful pests, en­hance yield and qual­ity, and shield veg­e­taEOHV IURP GDPDJH FDXVHG E\ UDLQ RU ßRRGV

Deng Ruibin, a 52-year-old farmer, de­spite ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ex­treme poverty, loves his

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