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Mountainous village sets model for China's targeted poverty alleviation

(Xinhua)    13:15, October 17, 2019

CHANGSHA, Oct. 17 -- A village of the Miao ethnic group in central China's Hunan Province has set a model for China's targeted poverty alleviation work since the country first launched the campaign six years ago.

In November 2013, during an inspection tour of Hunan, President Xi Jinping visited Shibadong Village, where he first put forward the concept of "targeted poverty alleviation." This concept of tailoring relief policies to different local conditions has become a guiding principle in China's fight against poverty.

The mountainous village of Shibadong in Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture is home to 939 people from 225 households. Shibadong, meaning "18 caves" in Chinese, was once so notorious for its destitution that "no outsider was willing to marry into the village." In recent years, however, it has become a paradigm of China's historic campaign to eradicate absolute poverty by 2020.

CHANGE WAYS OF FIGHTING POVERTY

Looking back on the poverty-stricken village of years past, Shi Quanyou said he treasures today's good life, earning nearly 600,000 yuan (about 84,506 U.S. dollars) each year from running his rural tourism business.

Shi remained unmarried into his 40s. He recalled that one time he came back with a girlfriend and she left him upon discovering the poor condition of his village -- "muddy roads, a shabby abode, and pigs living under the bed at that time."

The adverse geographical situation, limited markets and complicated poverty alleviation procedures were the major reasons the village remained impoverished for so long, said Li Weiguo, director of the prefecture's poverty relief office.

The procedures included identifying poverty-stricken households, choosing suitable poverty relief industries and managing the poverty alleviation funds and programs.

These problems were not unique to Shibadong Village but common across the country. So the village came up with new ways to boost the poverty reduction efforts.

POVERTY ALLEVIATION AND DEVELOPMENT

The identification of poverty-stricken households is the first step of poverty alleviation. Since the concept of "targeted poverty alleviation" was initiated in Shibadong in November 2013, the village started exploring ways of identifying the disadvantaged group.

Dispatched by Huayuan County, the poverty alleviation working team arrived in early 2014. Long Xiulin, the team leader, said they called a meeting of the villagers and let them appraise and nominate the poverty-stricken households, and then put up a notice to announce the results.

According to Long, to make sure that the process was fair, they published the evaluation criteria, including the exclusion of people who broke the law or lived in a building of two or more stories from being identified as poverty-stricken households.

Eventually, 533 individuals from 136 households were identified as impoverished.

Since then, Shibadong has chosen tailored industries such as rural tourism and agricultural products to develop the village.

Kiwifruit can adapt to the local environment, but the limited cultivated land per capita and the village's scattered distribution prevented Shibadong from developing industrial farming of kiwis. Then, Shibadong rented about 66.7 hectares of land from a neighboring village to plant high-quality kiwis.

Villagers received a total of 885,000 yuan from planting the fruit in 2018.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry is booming in the village.

What's more, the village organized for the locals to go out to study, launched lectures on technical training and linked the farmers with the market so the households could find ways to make money on their own terms. Some villagers operated restaurants, some ran family inns, the youth worked as tour guides, and the elders sold local specialties to tourists.

Shibadong's example demonstrates the many possibilities for developing village industries. Village tours are now the biggest contributor to Shibadong's anti-poverty campaign. Last year, the village received 300,000 visitors and reaped tourism revenue of over 3 million yuan.

SETTING MODEL FOR OTHER REGIONS AND COUNTRIES

The village dropped its "poverty-stricken" label in 2017. Its net per capita income increased to 12,128 yuan last year, up from a paltry 1,669 yuan in 2013, which was below the country's poverty line of 2,300 yuan.

Since then, locals in Shibadong have shifted their focus from their scarce arable land to the local Miao culture.

With government support, villagers formed an art troupe to entertain tourists and preserve the original Miao dances. A villager named Shi Liujin said he planned to rent part of his home to a local Miao silversmith. "I want to provide a platform to preserve the Miao culture," Shi said.

The outstanding experience of Shibadong has not only set a model for other impoverished areas in China but also attracted attention from overseas.

In 2018, Lao President Boungnang Vorachith visited Shibadong to learn from its experience of targeted poverty alleviation.

While committed to its own poverty reduction work, China has also provided assistance to other developing countries for poverty relief. Over the past 70 years, it has provided more than 400 billion yuan in aid to 170 countries and international organizations, and dispatched more than 600,000 aid workers to and trained more than 12 million personnel for developing countries to eradicate poverty.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Liang Jun, Bianji)

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