Across China: Roads lead ethnic people out of poverty
NANNING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- In south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Qibainong Township's karst landscape and stony desert make the secluded area one of the most inhospitable places on earth.
The name Qibainong means "700 valleys in the mountains" in the local language. About 20,000 residents have lived there in unforgiving conditions for decades, most of them the ethnic Yao people. Today, more than one third of them still live under the national poverty line.
Meng Jihui, 35, lives in Qibainong's Baoshang Village. He does construction work for neighbors to support his family of five. The family's annual income is less than 10,000 yuan (1,600 U.S. dollars).
"The stony desert makes it difficult to grow crops," Meng said. "I am chronically ill, so I cannot go away to find a better-paying job."
But the biggest trouble for locals is a lack of roads, which confines them in the mountains. In the past, few villages in Qibainong had roads connecting with the outside world and transportation mainly depended on horses.
"As there were no proper roads, we could not even find enough construction materials to build houses," said Meng Guirong, a Qibainong resident.
As a result, many houses remained simple shacks. Villagers could grow nothing but corn in the stony land.
"We can harvest about 200 kg of corn each year, but one kilo only sells for 2.4 yuan. It is barely enough to support a family," Meng said.
Soon, people like Meng will bid farewell to such a hard life, as roads are built to carry them out of poverty.
China plans to build more rural roads in its battle against poverty. The country aims to lift all people out of poverty by 2020 to create a "moderately prosperous society."
In the past five years, China has seen 1.28 million km of rural roads built or renovated, with 99.2 percent of townships and 98.3 percent of villages connected by asphalt or cement roads.
Work is underway in Qibainong.
Tian Jinyang, a local resident, has been helping. Tian worked in cities for more than 20 years. In 2012, he returned to Qibainong to work in the construction businesses. Over the years, he has spent hundreds of thousands of yuan building roads.
"According to a Chinese saying, if you want to get rich, you must first build roads," Tian said. "The government has also invested a lot in helping us build roads. People cannot live well without roads."
Tian recalled that in 2014 and 2015, there were barely any cars in Qibainong. Now that roads are being built, cars can be seen and some new houses have replaced ramshackle buildings.
"People are living better lives," Tian said. "New roads are truly leading people out of poverty here."
Meng Jihui also looks forward to a better life.
"I hope that with more roads, we can get out of the mountains and life will gradually improve," he said.