Guizhou Chishui leaves poverty behind

Yang Yong China Plus Published: 2018-01-31 10:30:13
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Cao Zhengming

Guizhou of southwest China has become well-known for incredible natural biodiversity and rich resources. However, the province is also known for having the largest poverty stricken areas in China. Prior to the end of 2017, Chishui city had been one of those areas. 

As the issue of poverty alleviation is being addressed around China, today, let's follow Yang Yong to Chishui and find out how the government is working hand in hand with local famers and enterprises to make a difference in people's lives.

Chishui is a county of about 300,000 people in the northwestern part of Guizhou province. The rolling hills and rough terrain are verdant with bamboo. Bamboo, nicknamed "Green Gold," can be used for everything from tasty food to elegant furniture. 

Although lush with 'Gold', Chishui had long been one of the areas of poverty in China. By 2014, 14.6% of the population still lived below the poverty line, meaning that 3 in 20 residents live on an annual income of around 2400 yuan or $1 a day. Liu Rongyu with Chishui poverty alleviation office explained.

"Generally speaking it's due to traffic restrictions. With high mountains and steep slopes, we had few rural roads. We didn't have highways. It even took us hours to get to the neighboring cities. No roads, no wealth."

Deeming road-building as essential to the development of the county, beginning in 2014, the county government, invested 3.8 billion yuan (or about 586 million US dollars) to renovate and build over 3072 kilometers of road ways. Liu Rongyu elaborated.

"In the year 2016 alone, 2100 kilometers were built and renovated, achieving more in one year than what had been built over the past 30 years. The biggest benefit to the farmers is travel convenience. Bamboo resources can be transported out from mountainous areas and turned into money."

Cao Zhengming is a bamboo farmer from Chishui's Huaping village. 

"With regards to infrastructure, take my village for instance, 90% of the roads in our village are now open to traffic. Before that, we made only 20 to 30 yuan for selling the bamboos we were able to carry. Now one could make up to 70 yuan for the same amount of bamboo. The difference in revenue is because of roads. Without road access, we would need manpower to move all these bamboos, and that takes a lot of work."

Now, Cao and his wife, on average, sell a total of between 100 to 200 tons of bamboo a year, raking in 20,000 to 30,000 yuan a year. 

Bamboo produces raw material fiber for infinite uses including flooring, furniture, clothing, bioplastics, energy and more. Taking advantage of natural conditions and resources, over the past decade, 45 thousand hectares of land had been returned to Bamboo fields. Currently Chishui has about 89 thousand hectares of bamboo forests, ranking the first among the top 10 bamboo lands in China. Today, the bamboo industry has become a pillar industry in Chishui. Liu Rongyu again.

"To ensure bamboo farmers with sustainable income from selling their bamboo, we applied to the State Council for a 250 thousand ton annual project of bamboo pulp and forest paper production in 2003. One million tons of bamboos are needed every year."

In addition to bamboo paper mills, bamboo furniture factories, and bamboo shoots processing plants have also been established in Chishui. These manufactories not only ensure the need for bamboo, but also provide jobs for local residents. 

Guizhou Chishui leaves poverty behind

In addition to bamboo, Chishui is famous for Dendrobium Nobile, also known as Jin Chai Shi Hu, one of the herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine. 

"Jin Chai Shi Hu (金钗石斛) mostly grows on Danxia rocks here in Chishui. According to Compendium of Materia Medic, the ancient Chinese medical records, Jin Chai Shi Hu is one of the nine rare and precious herbs. It has been proven effective in the treatment of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases."

That is 39-year-old Yuan Tuhui, who has been growing Shihu since 2008. 

"I used to work for other people as well as selling vegetables. The income was really meager. I made only a few thousand yuan every year. Later, the government made great efforts to promote Jin Chai Shi Hu farming. They came to our village and trained us on Shi Hu cultivation. I saw an opportunity, and enrolled myself and then started to learn about establishing a Shihu plantation."

Yuan started her Shihu business with only two greenhouses in 2008. By the end of 2017, Yuan has more than 60 greenhouses, plus over 13hectares of ShiHu fields on the mountain. Her last year's income reached more than 300,000 yuan, which is over 47,000 USD.

At present, there are over 5300 hectares of Shi Hu land in Chishui. Like Yuan Tuhui, many farmers, including elderly people, grow Shihu. Liu Yurong elaborated.

"There are about 20,000 farmers growing Jin-Chai-Shi-hu in Chishui. The land produces around 150 to 300 kg Shihu per mu, which is about 667 square meters, raking in 6000 to 8000 yuan per year. The market price for Shihu stems is 70yuan per kilogram, while for its flower is up to 3000 yuan per kilogram. With 2 or 3 mu of Shihu land, can a family can get rid of poverty. Besides, Shihu cultivation requires a small amount of maintenance that even an 80 year old person can grow and live off planting Shihu."

A pharmaceutical company has been introduced by the government and established in Chishui. With government's subsidies, local farmers are encouraged to buy quality seedlings from the pharmaceutical company and grow Shi Hu on their own land. The pharmaceutical company will then purchase the crop from farmers to manufacture herbal products which enhance the value of Shi Hu. Both the enterprise and farmers have greatly benefited from Shi Hu cultivation.

Thanks to poverty-relief policies, this enabled roadway construction, and empowered biological and agricultural economic profits to be possible. By the end of 2017, more than 25,000 people of around 7500 households have shaken off poverty in Chishui.

Kuang Shunhang, mayor of Chishui, says the government will continue to help local people to live good lives.

"We will continue to make differentiated poverty-relief policies, making full use of our dominant industries including bamboo forests, Jinchaishihu fields, and poultry, seeking as many ways as possible to increase our farmers' income."

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