Shanxi achieves victory, lifts over 3m people out of poverty

By Yuan Shenggao (China Daily)

Updated: 2021-03-05


A total of 3,378 forestry cooperatives have been founded in 58 impoverished counties and cities in Shanxi over the past five years, contributing to rural environmental improvements by planting some 535,300 hectares of trees. [Photo by Liu Shengfeng for China Daily]

Province's targeted efforts allow rural residents a better life

North China's Shanxi province has achieved a major victory in poverty reduction, with its entire impoverished population of 3.29 million people lifted out of absolute poverty over the past decade, local authorities announced recently.

In his government work report addressed to the fourth session of 13th Shanxi People's Congress on Jan 20, Governor Lin Wu said all of Shanxi's 58 impoverished counties and 7,993 impoverished villages have eradicated poverty, and the per capita income of its impoverished population increased from 2,327 yuan ($360) in 2012 to 9,592 yuan in 2020.

Shanxi has been a major battlefield in China's fight against poverty, with 58 of its 117 county-level administrative regions included on State or provincial lists of impoverished counties, cities and districts.

Enhanced investment in healthcare and education; relocation and industrial development; as well as improved rural environment, infrastructure and services, are among the major measures undertaken in the province, according to Shanxi's poverty alleviation office.

Tianzhen county in the north of Shanxi was once among the 10 least-developed counties in the province.

To help residents shake off poverty, the county government established the Wanjiale Relocation Community and Industrial Park in the county seat, offering new settlements to impoverished residents and providing job opportunities by attracting industrial projects to the park.

To date, a total of 10,232 residents have moved to their new residences in the community and 15 enterprises have settled in the industrial park, creating more than 5,000 new jobs.

The most significant project for poverty alleviation in Tianzhen is the Heishiliang Solar Power Project.

The project is also referred to as the "100-village photovoltaic project" by locals, as it has solar farms in more than 100 villages in the county.

With sufficient sunlight and a great number of undeveloped barren hills, Tianzhen is an ideal destination for solar power development, according to Ren Zhefeng, head of Tianzhen's poverty-reduction office.

The Heishiliang Solar Power Project became operational in 2017, benefiting more than 5,000 impoverished residents in 120 villages.

"Each of the 120 villages can earn 80,000 yuan in annual rental of land for the project and the lease can last 25 years," Ren said. He added that some local residents earn additional incomes working at the solar farms.

Over the past five years, more than 5,400 solar power projects have been built in rural Shanxi, benefiting about 720,000 households, according to Shanxi's poverty alleviation office.

Tianzhen was removed from the impoverished counties list on Feb 27, 2020.

There are similar stories for poverty reduction in Kelan county in the northwest of Shanxi.

At the heart of the Lyuliang Mountains, Zhaojiawa was among the least developed villages in Kelan county because of the lack of sufficient land for farming and poor access to both roads and electricity.

Over the past decade, most of the 200-plus villagers have moved to other parts of the county, leaving only 13 elderly residents in six families in 2017.

Zhang Xiuqing and his wife were among the 13 residents. He said he was reluctant to move because of his "emotional attachment to his homeland for many generations of his family" and his doubt whether he and his wife could find jobs to support themselves.

After visits to the government's proposed new settlement, where residents there told him a number of enterprises had been established in the neighborhood and jobs were easily available with recommendations from the government, Zhang and his wife finally decided to move.

They now live in an apartment in Guanghuiyuan community in the county seat, with access to running water, gas and central heating.

Zhang found a job in a nearby coal coking factory and earns a monthly salary of more than 3,000 yuan. His wife works as a ranger at a nearby forest.

The land of Zhaojiawa has been leased to a company for growing medical herbs and former villagers receive rent and dividends, Zhang said.

In Yunzhou district of Datong, day lilies-a crop with steady profitability-are grown by local farmers as major means to increase revenue.

The plant is a popular food ingredient in China.

Xie Wen, a farmer in the village of Hedian in Yunzhou, is one of the local residents who have been lifted out of poverty by growing day lilies.

He said farmers in Hedian have signed contracts with a rural cooperative responsible for the purchase, production and sales of day lily products.

The company has signed contracts with more than 21,000 farmers in Yunzhou for the purchase of their crops.

Forestry cooperatives are one of the most popular forms of rural cooperatives in Shanxi.

Wang Mingzhen, a farmer in the village of Hamashen in Lyuliang city, had been struggling to make a living by farming for decades.

He did not expect the game-changer would be the forestry industry.

"We used to make a living working on the farm. Life was hard because of the lack of sufficient farmland and harsh environment with frequent soil erosion during the rainy season," Wang said.

He said he and his wife are currently working with a forestry cooperative and can earn an annual income of nearly 30,000 yuan by planting trees.

"After years of planting trees, the mountains and hills have become greener and there are much fewer occurrences of soil erosion," Wang said.

Over the past five years, a total of 3,378 forestry cooperatives have been founded in 58 impoverished counties and cities in Shanxi, contributing to improvements in both people's lives and the ecological environment, according to the Shanxi Forestry and Grass Administration.

The administration's statistics show that these cooperatives have planted 535,300 hectares of trees in the past five years, contributing a per capita annual income of 16,000 yuan to more than 70,000 impoverished residents working for the cooperatives.

Kang Meixiang contributed to this story.