Ningxia has seen fruitful results in poverty alleviation
Xihaigu in Ningxia is one of China's poorest regions, with six of the poorest townships in the area. Located in a mountainous region in dry climate, it has been identified as "one of the least habitable areas for human beings" by the World Food Programme. Despite its harsh environment, the local government of Xihaigu has been promoting potential industries to drive social development and economic growth.
Ma Hancheng is mayor of Guyuan in Ningxia, and he says developing appropriate industries is bound to boost the local economy.
"Promoting industry is playing an important role in helping villagers lift themselves out of poverty. At the moment, we are setting up different industrial zones in five townships along the five major rivers which originate in Guyuan, including potato planting, ready-to-eat vegetables, cattle farming, sapling breeding and medicinal herbs. Our goal is to make these industries become profitable industries in the area."
To achieve this ambitious target, numerous efforts have been made to cultivate specialists who have knowledge of diverse areas. They are pooling their expertise to help villagers find a way out.
People celebrated the Spring Festival in Guyuan, Ningxia, on February 19, 2018. [File Photo: VCG]
Ma Meng is one such specialists in Xihaigu. He realized that the climate conditions of the area were better suited to growing red onions, so he started encouraging farmers to grow them instead of planting potatoes and rice.
"Because it's cold and dry here, the harvest season for red onions in Xihaigu is a month later than elsewhere in the country. So when we put our products on the market, we can normally sell at a good price because we have fewer competitors."
Ma Meng has successfully doubled farmers' incomes and helped nearly 60 local villagers make a better living by growing red onions as their main crop.
Specialists like Ma Meng not only discover the potential in the region, they also influence villagers' mindsets and broaden their horizons. Su Hongyu is a head of the local government. He explains.
"Many villagers are reluctant to try new concepts, even if they are offered by experts. They are more cooperative when they see results. So specialists often demonstrate what they're suggesting and show villagers how it is feasible and effective. Once villagers can see it for themselves, they can learn very fast."
Ma Fenglu is a local villager, and he says farmers are willing to try new methods that they're not familiar with. He says with the help of specialists and the local government, he believes living conditions and situations will improve.
"We like to follow the guidelines and cooperate with our local governments. We understand if we do nothing we will get nothing as return, just as the proverb says 'You reap what you sow'. The next step we are going to get involved in is sheep breeding. I believe a bright future is just round the corner."
Xihaigu of Ningxia [File Photo: IC]
To tackle the problem of some areas in Ningxia being unsuitable for human habitation, an ecological relocation program has been carried out since 2011. To date, 350,000 residents have left their remote and arid hometowns and settled in other habitable regions. Preferential policies have been released by the local government to attract investment in areas. As a result, more enterprises have set up branches there, and in the meantime, more job opportunities have been created.
Ma Xianglan has benefited from this policy. She has been living in Tongxin Township for two years. Currently, she has been working in a goji berry processing factory, she says she enjoys living in the new place, since she earns more now and enjoys more convenient transport links.
"Previously, I had nothing to do except feed my cows. But in here, I am working in a factory and each year I can earn 10,000 yuan. Compared with the past, it's a huge difference."
Ma Yongqin is another villager who has been positively influenced by the reallocation program. Having recently migrated to Hongde Village, she is thrilled to have found a job in her new home.
"I am impressed how the environment can influence a person. Now I am working in a clothing factory. My income is much more than before. After making more friends and getting to know more people here, I have learnt a lot from them and I feel I've become more open-minded. Now I am confident that I will be able to have a better life, as long as I work hard."
The number of poor villages in Ningxia has now decreased by more than 77 percent, from 1,100 in 2013 to 250 by the end of 2017. Xian Hui is a head of the local government of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. She emphasizes that Ningxia has experienced unprecedented development in the past six decades.
"Ningxia has seen a soaring economic growth. The region's GDP in 2017 reached 350 billion yuan, which is 270 times and 1000 times higher compared with 40 years ago, in 1978, and 60 years ago in 1958."