Across China: Ecological poverty alleviation leads unique pathway to prosperity
TAIYUAN, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Feng Huantang, a previously impoverished villager in his 60s, was busy working with other poor folks to prepare the land for planting trees at the bottom of a ditch, seizing upon the favorable period where temperatures are rising.
"I could earn more than 40 yuan (about 5.64 U.S. dollars) by digging some 30 pits in three hours this morning," said the man who lives in Daning County, north China's Shanxi Province.
Surrounded by mountains and with crisscrossing ravines and gullies, Daning is among the major counties for poverty alleviation and development in China that has been struggling with ecological fragility and poverty for years.
Feng had rushed about to eke out a living over the years, working in coal mines and selling tofu, yet was still afflicted by poverty. Now by planting trees in his hometown, Feng earns more than 10,000 yuan a year.
"I can lift my family of three out of poverty just by this source of income," he said.
Shanxi has further raised the annual income standard for people who are identified as impoverished from 3,600 yuan to 4,000 yuan per capita in 2020. Based on the new standard, the province's last batch of 21,600 rural poor people will be lifted out of poverty this year.
At present, Daning has set up 37 specialized afforestation cooperatives for poverty alleviation, with a total of 1,991 members including 1,578 impoverished ones, according to the county forestry bureau.
More than 200,000 mu (about 13,333 hectares) of ecological forest were grown in the county last year, with per capita annual income from labor services exceeding 15,000 yuan, said Feng Xiaoming, the bureau head.
By creatively combining ecological management with poverty alleviation, Shanxi has so far set up a total of 3,378 such afforestation cooperatives in 58 poverty-stricken counties across the province, absorbing more than 70,000 poor laborers to participate in afforestation projects that have afforested 8.2 million mu of land in recent years.
The poor households receive remuneration for their labor services from the government. Moreover, they earn an additional, long-term income by managing and protecting the forests.
The latest statistics show that Shanxi's forest coverage rate has increased from 18.03 percent in 2010 to 22.9 percent, which is close to the national average of 22.96 percent last year.
The ecological environment in Shanxi has been further improved, said Zhang Yunlong, head of the provincial forestry and grassland administration, noting that about 523,000 impoverished residents have benefited from ecological poverty alleviation projects.
Jia Yinmin, a poor villager in his late 60s, also changed his life by planting and protecting trees. He became a stakeholder of a local afforestation cooperative in his hometown in Lanxian County via his contractual land rights, and earns a monthly income of more than 3,000 yuan.
"I never thought I could find myself a wife at such an old age and enjoy a family life," Jia said. "Having hot dishes every day when I get home is what I've been longing for so many years."