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Mountain's new roads, farmland beat poverty

By Xiang Wenjian | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-08 09:53

The newly-built roads wind steadily up the mountainside through dense bamboo forest, at the end of which is Shenshan village, with a huddled cluster of white-walled houses in traditional style, nestled between the broad green shoulders of the mountains.

The roads are a fitting metaphor for the economic progress of Shenshan: It has taken time, but through hard graft, investment and determination, the once poverty-stricken village in the East China province of Jiangxi, has turned a corner.

Shenshan is just one of many villages in Jinggangshan area - home to the Communist Party of China's first rural revolutionary base established in 1927 - to have lifted its residents above the poverty line.

Peng Xiaying, 50, a farmer who has lived in Shenshan her whole life, witnessed firsthand its transformation.

She said that before 2002, there wasn't even a dirt road connecting the village to the outside world. Combined with the mountainous landscape, unsuitable for standard farming, it was very difficult for locals to earn any money at all.

"At that time, we would make chopsticks out of wild bamboo and trek for three to four hours over the mountains in the early morning, just to get to the nearest market by 9 am," Peng said.

Even so, the slender income made from selling chopsticks would hardly cover the costs for basic necessities, including food.

What made things worse for Peng was that her husband suffered an accident at work as a young man, in the wake of which they could no longer afford to send their three children to school.

However in 2014, things began to look up with the introduction of the precision poverty alleviation policy rolled out by the central government.

Unlike previous policies which aimed to treat poverty across the whole society with one broad brush stroke, the new measures treated each family individually according to its specific needs, providing a more targeted system for people to get back on track.

On top of financial subsidies, the local government invested in local infrastructure, especially roads, so that transport in and out of the village would become easier, so making the business of commerce and trade easier.

Cooperatives were also introduced, and in 2016, Peng's and 20 other poverty-affected households, joined forces with the help of the government to grow tea and yellow peaches on allotted farmland.

Not just relying on government support, in the same year, Peng opened a family homestay business offering visitors to the village a place to relax and enjoy locally produced food, or even a place to lodge while visiting the popular nearby tourist attraction of Huangyangjie.

The new poverty alleviation policy has given Peng a foothold. Thanks to it her two sons, who used to be migrant workers in Guangzhou more than 600 kilometers away, have returned home to help her run the family homestay business and sell local specialties.

Peng's family is not the only one to have benefited and prospered from the policy - thousands of people in hundreds of villages across the Jinggangshan region have been lifted out of poverty.

By the end of 2016, there were a total of 1,417 people in Jinggangshan living below the poverty line, a huge drop compared with the 16,934 people recorded in 2014.

In Shenshan, 20 poverty-affected households have already risen out of poverty with per capita income reaching 7,760 yuan ($1,177.8) annually, far above the country's poverty line of 2,300 yuan, according to Huang Chengzhong, the village's Party chief.

"We have come out of the poverty mire already, and in the next stage, we shall explore more ways to achieve moderate prosperity," Huang said.

(China Daily 09/08/2017 page29)

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