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Enriching the People

2018-07-06 08:49:00 Source:China Today Author:MA LI
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NANPING in southeastern China’s Fujian Province is one of the places that inspired Xi Jinping’s thoughts on poverty reduction. During the 17 years he worked in Fujian Province, from 1985 to 2002, Xi made several visits to remote rural areas in Nanping to look into how to help locals get out of poverty.

Nanping City has five counties, which had been included in the provincial poverty alleviation project. In its 346 impoverished villages, there were 129,400 registered poor people in 2013. In just four years, the entire registered poverty-stricken population and 96 impoverished villages were lifted out of poverty. Shunchang County is one of the frontrunners in the poverty reduction efforts in Nanping.

A Beautiful Life

Late May saw lotuses in full bloom in Zhangdun Village, Pushang Town, Shunchang County. Wu Xiufeng and her mother Huang Changji began their busy day early in the morning. They went to the vineyard to prune grape vines. “The grapes grow well this year. I can easily harvest 3,000 kg per mu (0.07 hectare),” Wu Xiufeng said with pride.

Wu Xiufeng, a grape farmer of Zhangdun, and her mother Huang Changji on their way to the vineyard. Yu Jie

Wu, 49, married into Zhangdun Village in 1988. “Back then, everyone was poor. We relied solely on rainfall to feed the crops grown on our small patch of farmland,” she recalled, adding that she never expected her family could live a life as good as it is today. “My family has a farmland of four mu (0.28 hectare). The grapes bring an annual income of around RMB 150,000 (US $23,400). During the off-season, my husband has some side jobs, so we together make about RMB 200,000 ($31,200),” she said. A household income like Wu’s is about average in Zhangdun Village.

Life was tough a decade ago. “My husband and I worked as migrant workers and struggled to save money year round,” Wu recalled. In 1996, they began to grow grapes in their hometown. “We still could not make money after deducting the costs of fertilizers and labor as the price of fresh grapes was relatively low.” At that time, Wu’s family was predominantly poor.

Lotus flowers are in full blossom in Zhangdun Village in Chunchang, Fujian Province in May, 2018. Lin Zhengrong

Things changed in 2009. The committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Pushang Town initiated a support project in which CPC members were encouraged to help and lead local farmers to seek prosperity. Based on their occupations, CPC members were asked to lead four groups concerning grape production, wine making, rice growing, and agritourism. Poor households could join any group they liked, depending on what they wanted to learn. With activities carried out on a monthly basis, CPC members taught rural residents techniques that would be used in their operations. “My family joined the grape cultivating group. Technical staff came to my vineyard and taught us how to take care of the vines and grapes. The town also offered winemaking classes. With knowledge of how to cultivate grapes and make wine, my income began to get higher and higher,” said Wu.

Wu Xiufeng did some math based on present prices of fresh grapes and wine. An annual wine yield of 3,500 kg multiplied by a unit price of RMB 20 (US $3.12) equals RMB 70,000 (US $10,900). As for fresh grapes, produce per mu generates a revenue of RMB 18,000 (US $2,810). Wu has a vineyard of four mu. She can make up to RMB 72,000 (US $11,200) from fresh grapes.

“Look at our living environment, it’s like a painting. My family has a three-story house in the village and two apartments in the county seat. The vineyard has brought us a well-off life, which is tangible, and I can feel it,” Wu said.

Locally grown bamboo shoot sells well in the market. Lin Zhengrong

At present, there are 86 households in Zhangdun Village growing grapes and making wines. The expanding industry has inspired surrounding villages and counties to grow grapes. The annual output of Zhangdun-brand wines totals 30 tons, contributing an income of RMB 1.5 million (US $230,000) to local farmers.

Bamboo Business

Developing an industry is the fundamental way to root out poverty. “President Xi Jinping visited Laibu Village Bamboo Demonstration Base in Dagan Town when he worked in Fujian Province. He told us to harness local ecological and resource advantages for economic development,” said Zhang Jingzheng, Party secretary of Dagan Town, Shunchang County.

Xi Jinping made the visit on April 9, 2002 when he worked as governor of Fujian Province. He encouraged Laibu Village to develop a bamboo industry to enrich local people.

Lian Hengrong, then head of Laibu Village, was the only local person who received Xi and the inspection group in 2002.

In 1999, Lian, together with some of his fellow farmers, went to neighboring Zhejiang Province and brought back the bamboo species that have edible shoots and can also be used for multiple purposes. The bamboos can help conserve water, maintain soil, purify the air, and beautify the environment.

At first, local farmers just wanted to make some cash by selling bamboos. Later, they found that the bamboo shoots could bring lucrative benefits. Now, bamboo shoots have become one of the pillars of the village economy, as they are the main source of farmers’ incomes. Locally grown bamboo shoots are fresh and delicious and sell well on the market. As said by local people, the earnings from one mu of bamboos equal those of four mu of grains.

Driven by the bamboo industry, agricultural tourism began to boom. According to incumbent village head Lian Yiming, Laibu Village received two government subsidies of RMB 5.3 million (US $828,000) and RMB 1.5 million (US $234,375) and built a 1.2-km bank revetment project and 1.8-km scenic road respectively, preserving the ecological environment and improving local tourism infrastructure. “The village received 30,000 tourists in 2017, generating RMB 2.1 million (US $328,000). The situation this year is even better,” Lian said, confident that the future will be even brighter.

In 16 years, the bamboo growing business has evolved into a booming industry. The bamboos have become a unique ecological edge for the village to develop their local economy, agricultural tourism, and a way to reduce poverty.  

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