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China set to rid Tibet, Sichuan of extreme poverty with innovations

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All counties and prefectures in Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region have now been lifted out of extreme poverty, reaching a significant milestone in the region’s poverty alleviation efforts, the regional government announced on January 13.

The regional government said 19 counties and prefectures, such as Gyangze county in Xigaze, Markam county in Qamdo, can now delete the title “poverty-stricken” from their profiles, according to a document sent to the Global Times by the Tibetan regional government.

This signals that all 74 counties and prefectures in the region have shaken off extreme poverty.

Tibet, a place deemed as the most difficult to get rid of extreme poverty, now achieved a huge progress in this arena and moved one step closer to meet the country’s goal of lifting the entire population out of extreme poverty by the end of 2020, Zhu Weiqun, a former head of the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Committee of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the Global Times. 

Zhu, who has long-term and first-hand experience of Tibet’s poverty alleviation work said the government has laid out measures for different places to become rich.

For instance, Markam county was encouraged to make use of their abundant grape resources to develop relevant industries and this successfully helped all its 206 extreme poverty-stricken families to shake off poverty in 2018, China Central Television (CCTV) reported in September.

Hinterland villages in Shannan Prefecture started to bolster their tourism services. Some 49 out of 66 families in Mamacun village of Shannan work in tourism and the villages’ per capital disposable income reached 19,000 yuan annually ($2,710), CCTV said.

A resident of Nyemo county told the Global Times that farmers and herdsmen benefited most from poverty alleviation and learned skills such as handicrafts. They used modern technologies to sell their products online and gained education opportunities.

Ngabo Jinyuan, president of Tibet’s association of industry and commerce, said that private enterprises also played an important role in assisting poverty alleviation and boosting employment.

Altogether 703 private companies registered to take part in Tibet’s poverty alleviation system, investing 2.32 billion yuan ($0.35 billion).

In 2019, more than 82,000 people were lifted out of extreme poverty and the association helped more than 800 university graduates find jobs in Tibet, said Jinyuan.

Another effective measure was to support poor students’ education, said Zhu.

Both the central and regional governments issued preferential policies to relieve poor Tibetan students’ economic burden from elementary education to university, Pu Zhengxue, an official from Tibet’s office of poverty alleviation and development, said in a conference in November.

“Tibet has poor natural conditions, but the poverty alleviation achievements are quite rich,” said Pu.

“Most importantly, poverty alleviation spread the warmth of the central government to all ethnic groups in this region and pulls close the public with the Party and officials,” Pu said.

Southern Xinjiang, Tibetan autonomous prefectures in Northwest China’s Gansu and Qinghai provinces and some areas in Southwest China’s Yunnan and Sichuan were also deemed as most difficult places to shake off extreme poverty.

A total 48 extreme poverty-stricken counties in Yunnan got rid of extreme poverty from 2013-18, China News Service reported in August, 2019. Gansu vowed to lift all of its extreme poverty-stricken counties including cities and prefectures out of extreme poverty by 2020, Xinhua reported.

Likewise, China’s Southwest Sichuan province, by innovating the marketing mechanism for its poverty alleviation products, has helped a great number of farmers get through hardships.

The province registered a collective logo for local farmers for which all products coming from impoverished villages can apply. Those products approved will be recommended by the government to catering enterprises, supermarkets, government organs, communities and e-commerce platforms.

Such  method has successfully introduced the products from Sichuan’s impoverished villages to proper markets and lowered the cost of logistics.

The delicious Long’an grapefruit is a protected geographical indication product, which has been introduced by Sichuan’s Gexin village to establish featured industry. A total of 53.3 hectares of such fruit trees were planted in the village.

However, before the innovative marketing mechanism was put into use, the fruit barely played its role as a tool to alleviate poverty.

“Our village is an impoverished village, and the Long’an grapefruit was introduced to establish a specialty industry to help us get rid of poverty. But later we found it difficult to sell the fruits, for which our villagers were bearing a resentment,” said Yang Shengrong, secretary of the Gexin village Party branch.

Jin Dafu, who came to Gexin village in early 2019 as the first secretary, a post in charge of poverty alleviation work, decided to find markets for the villagers after seeing the unsalable fruits rotten. “You plant them, I sell them,” Jin told the villagers.

Thanks to the innovative marketing mechanism and Jin’s efforts, the grapefruits of Gexin village embraced a sales boom. Villager Long Chengmin said that he sold over 1,000 grapefruits online in 3 days, earning 6,000 yuan ($876). “The fruits have become a money tree for us,” he said.

Taking the opportunity, Gexin village established a cooperative joined by all the 24 impoverished households in the village and opened an online shop that purchases and sells agricultural products including the Long’an grapefruit.

“The grapefruits were barely sold out even at a price of less than one yuan per kilogram, but now the price goes up to at least 10 yuan per kilogram,” Yang introduced. According to him, the cooperative received at least 3,000 orders last year, which benefited 78 grapefruit planters who saw their household income grow over 3,000 yuan on average.

The Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation recently issued a report on the development of rural e-commerce in China. The report said rural e-commerce, by connecting the supply and demand sides, has effectively cut cost and improved efficiency, thus stimulating production vitality in the rural region, increasing farmers’ income and enhancing employment.

World Bank and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba also jointly released a report titled E-commerce Development : Experience from China on Nov. 23, 2019. According to the report, part of the impoverished regions in China have benefited from e-commerce, and digital technology can be a powerful instrument for rural vitalization and poverty reduction.

E-commerce is showing increasing power in revitalizing China’s rural areas. As the country has established successful online platforms, Chinese farmers are seeing more hope of getting rid of poverty and embracing a well-off life.

Now, villagers from Gexin village have innovatively expanded their way of thinking. They are now making tea from grapefruit flowers, extracting fructus aurantii immaturus from fruitlets, and making cakes with inferior-quality grapefruits. Besides, they are also selling chili sauce and eggs to gain extra income. So far, the collective logo registered by Sichuan province has introduced 3,323 products to the market, achieving a sales volume of nearly 5.14 billion yuan.

Sources: Global Times and People’s Daily

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