Out of Poverty


ERADICATING poverty, improving people’s livelihood, and lifting 70 million impoverished people out of poverty, is what China aims to achieve by 2020 in building a moderately well-off society in an all-round way. After the assessment of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development and the approval of the provincial government of Jiangxi, Jinggangshan City officially announced on February 26, 2017 that it is one of the first cities in China to have totally eradicated poverty.


By putting emphasis on targeted poverty alleviation Jianggangshan has explored new models based on practical conditions and gained the city first-hand experience of poverty-relief work.


An organic tea plantation in Jinggangshan.


Zuo Xiufa’s family is a low income household in Shenshan Village, Mao-ping Township in Jinggangshan. Until 2016, when her old adobe house was refurbished, the roof leaked and the walls were cracked. “There are now new tiles on the roof and the walls have been reinforced with ferrocement and coated in mineral varnish. It is now a fine, solid- looking house,” Zuo said.


Low-income households just need to pay RMB 2,000 towards the masonry reinforcement of their adobe homes. The government subsidizes the remaining bulk of the cost. All the village’s dilapidated adobe houses have now been refurbished. Since 2016, the city’s poverty alleviation drive has given priority to comfortable housing, as evident that year in the reinforced masonry of 3,888 old homes and building of new apartments.


A restaurant advertises glutinous rice cakes, a local speciality in Shenshan Village.


For residents who are unable to carry out renovations, such as seniors with no family, or those who are physically or intellectually disabled, the city has commissioned agents to build homes for them. At the end of 2016, 36 impoverished families from remote mountain regions moved into an apartment block constructed in prosperous Xiaqi Township. At the cost of just around RMB 15,000-20,000, each family could live in an apartment of 70-80 sq m and enjoy the same access to public services as regards employment, medical treatment, and education, as native residents.  


The city also ensures that registered poverty-stricken families have the means to build their own houses. In addition to receiving a house-building subsidy of RMB 24,500 per family, each household can also apply for a maximum loan of RMB 50,000 in constructing their own houses.


E-commerce Promoting Mountain Products 


Huang Xiaohua lives in Hongshi Village of Huangyou Township, and has set up a cooperative specializing in bamboo fungus cultivation. In 2016, Huang turned to e-commerce to help low-income families rise from poverty. Farm products sold online have been well received in the market. Their profit margin has increased by 42 percent over the year before. “Thanks to this e-business platform, we no longer worry about marketing,” said Huang. In 2016, 45 low-income families bought shares in Huang’s cooperative from their poverty relief fund.


“There are three sources of earnings for low-income families who become shareholders now, namely, land rent, e-commerce revenues, and industry bonuses,” villager Huang Zhaolong explained. These earnings can increase the annual income of each household by RMB 1,500.


A new look for Shenshan Village.


Along with the prevalence of e-commerce and financial development, Jinggangshan now has 18 e-business service sites radiating to 35 poor villages. In addition, it has established an express mail route to ensure the delivery of quality agricultural products to more consumers out of the mountainous areas.


Transforming Waste Land into a Cornucopia


Until 2015, there was an 11-hectare stretch of wasteland in Xincheng Village of Xincheng Township. According to village head Xie Jiaomei, the land, which consists of alluvial farmland and terraced fields, belongs to three villages. Owing to difficult access and the high cost of manpower and material re-sources, not to mention low returns, it has remained uncultivated for years.


Early in 2016, following targeted poverty alleviation measures, these villages invested RMB 100,000 in setting up a cooperative to cultivate this land. Honey pomelo has been planted on four hectares, and round-grained rice and black rice on six hectares. Land not suitable for farming has been dug up for aquaculture. Other crops cultivated include watermelons, peanuts, and sweet potatoes. Villagers also keep more than 100 chickens.


Scarce land resources are another problem. The Jinggangshan government launched a program specifically to develop uncultivated or waste land, according to its arability and other characteristics, to plant tea, forests, and fruit trees. This produce has earned poor farmers a stable extra income.


In 2016 the city planted 654 hectares of tea trees, 1,100 hectares of forests, and 635 hectares of fruit trees. This year 399 new farmers’ cooperatives and 160 ecological farms were established.


Tourism Boosts Income


Liu Xiufeng has a stand selling meat in the new Shandi Renjia (family in the hills) scenic area. Formerly a resident of the remotest village of Maoping Township, he moved his home to the scenic area, and all his family members have found jobs there. His wife is a sanitation worker and his son works as a photographer, snapping shots of visitors to the area. At RMB 80,000, the family’s annual income is triple what it was five or more years ago.


The natural scenery and rural folkways in Maoping Township, formally a CPC stronghold, draw flocks of visitors to the area. Some come to explore the hills, some to experience rural life, others to draw the scenery.


The township organizes tourism projects catering to all tastes. For example, it invited Jiangxi Provincial Urban and Rural Planning Institute to plan and construct Shandi Renjia, with its 20 guest houses and distinctive local features, as a major tourism project.


The township government has also improved the tourist service center and facilities such as lodges, parking lots, and public rest rooms. The Shenshan scenic spot of the township received more than 15,000 person times of visitors in the first three quarters of 2016. The Bajiao (octagon) Tower alone received 35,690 visitors, a 143.3 percent year-on-year rise. This steady increase of tourists is expected to benefit even more locals.


Education Foremost


In August 2016, high school student Liu Kaiwen received a letter of college admission, but his family couldn’t afford to let him go. Then the local education department and bank helped him to apply for an interest-free annual student loan of RMB 8,000. As Liu’s family is officially registered as poverty-stricken, Liu was able to obtain the special RMB 8,000 subsidy the government provides to such college entrants.


This is a salient example of Jinggangshan’s strategy of eradicating poverty at the roots through education. Students from poverty-stricken families now have no fear of being forced to drop out due to insufficient funds. For example, pre-school age school children pay only half the standard tuition fees, and those attending boarding schools during compulsory education stage (elementary and junior high schools) are eligible for an extra annual subsidy of RMB 500.


Senior high school students from impoverished families are exempt from tuition and textbook fees, and also receive a yearly RMB 2,500 subsidy. For senior high school students enrolled in colleges and vocational schools, the government provides yearly subsidies of RMB 4,000 and RMB 2,000 respectively for two years.


Statistics show that Jinggangshan municipal government has input more than RMB 1 million towards helping 1,088 students. It also encourages people from all walks to help students arise from the mire of poverty. There are now 50 or more social projects that help students to complete their studies. They contribute more than RMB 400,000 a year in this respect, so benefiting about 1,000 students.


Jinggangshan is among the first group of cities in the country to shake off poverty. According to a third-party independent assessment, public satisfaction with poverty reduction programs stands at 99.08 percent.


Owing to different natural conditions and the specific reasons why families have fallen into poverty, relevant policies need to be adapted to various situations. Jinggangshan City’s casting off of poverty is attributable to its on-target policies that have helped those in need to rise from poverty by providing them much-needed resources and assistance.


 (Compiled by China Today)