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Rugged roses prick thorny poverty problem

(Xinhua)    09:58, September 16, 2020

GUIYANG, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Ma Jinyou walks into his roxburgh rose orchard with a pair of black secateurs, bending over and cutting off extra branches.

"They're like little babies, and I'm the babysitter," said Ma. "These fruits will soon mature in mid-September, and after selling them, I will have enough money for my son's wedding."

The 55-year-old villager from Xichong, a village in the city of Bijie in southwest China's Guizhou Province, has been growing roxburgh roses for seven years.

Roxburgh roses, mainly planted at an altitude between 500 and 2,500 meters, bear small and thorny fruit that is known for its richness in vitamins and is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

These "babies," however, were once regarded as weeds scattered on the mountain by villagers.

"There used to be scattered wild roxburgh roses in the village, but no one thought they could bring us money. The villagers thought they were ugly and useless as they are covered with thorns and bear bitter and sour fruit," said Zhang Shuda, a village official.

"However, the plants are now our treasure, helping us shake off poverty," said Zhang.

China is making a final sprint to eliminate absolute poverty. While most of the eastern provinces have reached their anti-poverty targets, final victory hinges on the western regions, where the predominantly mountainous landscapes make it hard for villagers to find stable sources of income.

Most of the households in Ma and Zhang's village used to grow corn and potato, barely enough to eat, let alone make a living.

"Racking our brains to help villagers find a way out of poverty, we tried to raise different kinds of animals and grow different plants, all without success due to the poor soil conditions here," said Zhang.

In 2013, researchers from South China University of Technology came to the village to help study local natural conditions and finally found that the weather and geological conditions are perfect for growing roxburgh roses.

Agricultural experts came to the village to teach the locals how to grow the plants. Ma, tired of growing corn, was one of the first to venture into the new business.

Things were not easy at first, as Ma did not know how to prune, weed or fertilize. The harvest in the first year was not good.

However, under the guidance of experts and through careful exploration, Ma became a local expert in roxburgh roses.

In 2016, Ma saw his income rise above the poverty line. He now grows about 0.4 hectares of roxburgh roses. With the money he has earned, he renovated his house.

"The fruits generally sell for about 3.5 yuan (about 0.47 U.S. dollars) per kg. This year, my roxburgh roses may produce more than 5,000 kg of fruits," said Ma Jinyou. "I'm expecting an income of about 30,000 yuan."

According to Zhang, the village is home to 418 households with 1,798 residents, and all of them are engaged in growing roxburgh roses. Of the 233 impoverished villagers, 214 have shaken off poverty.

Xichong has sold a total of 4.24 million yuan of roxburgh rose fruits as well as its branches and seedlings from 2015 to 2019. The industry helped 1,798 local people increase their annual income by an average of more than 9,000 yuan.

Eyeing more diversified sources of income, villagers are now using the roxburgh rose fruits to make wine and candied fruits, and are even raising chickens and producing roxburgh rose wine.

"Planting roxburgh roses has brought endless hope to my life," said Ma. "They bear bitter and sour fruit but they bear hope for us."

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

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