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Path out of poverty found on 'green trains'

Xinhua in Xi'an | Updated: 2017-02-08 07:46

At 6 am, Wang Yingxiang carefully boards a train, her hands full with four heavy kettles of hot water.

The steam from the spout fogs up the window of the old-fashioned "green-skinned train". She quickly gets to work. Her first task is to write information on the carriage's signboards.

The signboards advertise goods that passengers are selling. Many people sell products during their journey on the No 8361 train, which runs deep through the Qinling Mountains in Shaanxi province.

Lei Shunmin paid 1 yuan ($0.15) to travel from Xiangshui town to Daijiaba market, about 8 kilometers away. Once he finds his seat, he carefully begins to calculate how much he can earn on the train and at the market.

"The honey sells for 200 yuan, and five brooms will make me 50 yuan," he tells himself.

The train only has three carriages, and it picks up passengers every 10 minutes from 12 stations in one of the most impoverished hinterlands in northwestern China. For locals, the clanking green train is their lifeline, taking them to relatives, hospitals, schools and markets.

"When I was young, we had to leave at midnight to get to the morning fair," Lei said.

China's slow, green trains, like the No 8361, have no air conditioning and are often crammed with people and huge bags bulging with goods. In the modern era of high-speed trains they are just a distant memory for many urbanites. In rural areas, however, they are the only link locals have to the outside world, and to wealth.

The tradition of peddling produce on the trains, which was once a major source of income for many folks, is changing.

After Lei gets off the train, the green carriages chug along to a bigger market in Da'an town, which is where Zhu Jihong, 28, is headed.

Born locally, Zhu took the train to a new life 10 years ago. She never imagined it would bring her back.

She is now vice-chairwoman of an e-commerce association, which was set up last year, in Dayudong village in Da'an. The aim of the association is to help villagers out of poverty through the sale of their produce, such as mushrooms, chestnuts, bacon and free-range chickens.

E-commerce was identified by the central government as away to reduce poverty. However, many locals are not computer literate, so people like Zhu have been brought in to help villagers use these new tools.

"We just got an order for 1,000 chickens from Beijing," Zhu said, adding that local farmers had received more than 30,000 orders last year.

More than 300 of the 500-plus households in Dayudong still live under the poverty line, which means they survive on an annual income below 2,300 yuan per capita. E-commerce has helped at least six households get richer in less than a year and encouraged many more to explore large-scale farming.

"There was no independent industry in the village. It was only recently that farmers started to grow produce on a large scale," a local official said.

Encouraged by the accomplishments, the local government plans to eradicate poverty in the village by 2018 by helping e-commerce businesses in the region grow.

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