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An ethnic minority family's journey towards a better life

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-10-22 17:22
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NANNING -- In mid-October, the rice terraces in the villages of Guilin, South China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, have turned breathtakingly golden with the harvest season approaching, but villagers are not in a hurry to reap their fruits of labor as visitors pour in to catch a glimpse of the autumn colors.

"I used to rely on good harvests to make ends meet, but now the crop yield is no longer the main source of my family income," said Liao Daoyong, a 58-year-old villager from the Zhuang ethnic minority group in Ping'an village, Longji township, Longsheng county.

Liao planted over four mu (about 0.27 hectares) of rice on the terraced fields and became a stakeholder with a tourism company in the 1990s to co-develop the Longji terraced field.

Benefiting from terraced farming and maintaining the traditional ethnic architecture of local residents, the unique cultural landscape became a landmark tourist destination.

The terrace has a history of over 2,000 years and has been included in the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as an outstanding landscape of aesthetic beauty.

Longsheng county has a mountainous area of 87.2 percent and a forest coverage rate of 79.12 percent. The 660-plus hectares of terraces are a feast for the eyes, especially during spring and autumn.

In the past, inconvenient transportation used to stagger the local economy, and the county was prioritized to be lifted out of poverty during the country's anti-poverty campaign.

"The rice we grew was not enough to eat due to lack of paddy fields, and we relied on government relief when we faced food shortages for one or two months every year," he said.

"Villagers lived in poverty as we made a living on farming. But now we grow rice to beef up the tourism industry, which has helped us have a better life," he added.

The booming tourism sector also improved the infrastructure of Ping'an village. Liao and his family also run a guesthouse in the village to accommodate the inflow of visitors since 2009. "Since the end of September, a dozen of guest rooms in my house are almost fully booked," said Liao's daughter-in-law Liang Anjuan.

Last year, the household's total income exceeded 300,000 yuan (about $47,000), including more than 10,000 yuan of dividends from the tourism company.

She added that the whole family had joined the business and each family member has their own responsibility: Liang is in charge of guest room cleaning and catering; her husband handles the pickup service for guests; her sister-in-law who now lives in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, takes care of the online reservations.

There are over 100 guesthouses in Ping'an, and the demand is still increasing. According to local authorities, during this year's National Day Golden Week holiday, about 360,000 tourists visited Longsheng, up 58 percent year-on-year, and the tourism revenue exceeded 300 million yuan.

Besides their part-time job in the tourism company as ticket inspectors, Liao and his wife still farm on the terraces. Harvesting rice is still of great significance and sustaining a good environment is the villagers' responsibility, he said.

Xiaokang, or well-off society, means having a stable family income and a booming industry near home, offering great employment prospects, he added.

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