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Around China: Migration: an escape from poverty


08:22, June 28, 2012

LANZHOU, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Li Bing believes leaving his arid home in northwest China's Huining was the wisest decision he has ever made.

In his new home in Guazhou county, Jiuquan city, about 500 km from Huining, Li made 80,000 yuan (12,568 U.S. dollars) last year growing licorice plants, the roots of which are used in traditional herbal medicine.

"In Huining, a farmer has to toil for 10 years to make that much," said Li, 42.

The countryside of Huining, a county with about 582,000 people in Dingxi city, is one of the driest -- and least developed -- areas of western China that were declared "uninhabitable" for humans by visiting experts from the United Nations in 1982.

The "uninhabitable" areas cover Dingxi and Hexi in Gansu province, and Xihaigu in the neighboring Ningxia Hui autonomous region. The three places are known together in Chinese as Sanxi -- "san" meaning "three" and "xi" for "west," the only character their names share.

The region receives 200 to 300 mm of rainfall every year, but transpiration is at least 10 times as much.

The Chinese government launched a massive poverty relief program in the region in 1982. Supporting Li and others to relocate was part of the relief program.

In Gansu alone, about 192,500 people have moved from the parched central areas and chilly pasturelands of the south to Jiuquan and Zhangye cities in the far west, where the climate is milder with more precipitation.

"Altogether 35,300 families of 157,500 people have moved to Jiuquan," said Gao Jianping, deputy chief of Jiuquan's poverty relief office. "The new settlers account for 25 percent of the city's rural population."

In the three years from 2009 to 2011, at least 550 million yuan was spent subsidizing the new settlers' home building, farm production, medical services and education for their children, he said.

In Ningxia, the government-run program helped nearly 1 million people relocate from tough, arid areas to more habitable places, and 6 billion yuan was allocated by the central and local governments from 2002 to 2011 to improve the living conditions of the new settlers.

"Another 350,000 people will have migrated by 2015," said Wu Zhandong, a regional government official in charge of migrants.

Li received 12,000 yuan in government subsidies to build his new courtyard home in Guazhou.

The home is only half finished and his family of six now share two bedrooms. A porch, a garden and a third bedroom will be completed by the end of the year.

He grows licorice on 4,000 square meters of farmland and the crops are sold to herb dealers before harvest.

In Guazhou, 180 million square meters of arable land has been allocated to the 82,000 new settlers, said Zhao Shengqiang, a poverty relief official with the county government.

Migrant Yang Yusheng was the first to grow vegetables in greenhouses in Liuhu township. Last year, he made more than 50,000 yuan. "New technologies are crucial for farmers to increase income," he said.

Last year, the new settlers in Guazhou reported an average 2,413 yuan in per capita net income, and 95 percent of them were lifted out of poverty, according to figures provided by the county government.

In Hongsibao district, home to 200,000 new settlers, per capita annual income averaged 2,150 yuan last year.


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