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Relocating to a Better Life

Beijing Review,October 13, 2017 Adjust font size:

The Qianhuyizhai resettlement area in Liupanshui (DONG FANG)

For decades, 48-year-old Ye Peng resided in a remote and poverty-stricken village in Caiguan Town in Guizhou Province.

Deep in the mountains, in Guankou village, he led a simple life, supported by corn planting. Life, already hard enough, took a downward turn about a decade ago when his wife fell seriously ill. With medical bills to foot and two school-aged children to support, the family plunged into dire poverty.

Nonetheless, a turnaround in his fortune took place this year. In April, he and his family moved into a newly furnished apartment in Caiguan Town, at no cost, under a poverty alleviation relocation program, Ye told Beijing Review. In addition to a new home, Ye was also offered a job as a security guard in the town, earning 1,500 yuan ($227.9) per month.

Speaking of his new life, Ye said "Life is convenient. Shops and a drug store are right across the street." The neighborhood for resettled residents boasts a number of modern amenities. A recreation area for children, with colorful images of the Monkey King and dragons, is located at the end of the street. A spacious and well-furnished afterschool care center offers children free services, and seniors can entertain themselves at a seniors' activity center next door to the afterschool care center.

Settled down

Guizhou is a mountainous province whose hills account for more than 92 percent of its total area. Many impoverished people in the province live in areas with inhospitable natural conditions.

During the period of the country's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20), Guizhou plans to relocate more than 1.6 million people, or nearly one third of all impoverished people in the province, out of areas where the environment can no longer support them. In 2016, 458,000 people were already relocated, according to the Poverty Alleviation and Development Office of Guizhou Province.

The relocation is voluntary, said Xu Min, an official with the Guizhou Provincial Government. Leaflets have been distributed to farmers to inform them of relevant supportive government policies.

The government's subsidies vary according to the conditions of individual cases. Each person in a relocated impoverished household with income below the poverty line can receive a relocation subsidy of 20,000 yuan ($3,040), while each person in households above the poverty line can receive 12,000 yuan ($1,823). In addition, those who have signed a relocation and housing demolition agreement, under which their land will be reclaimed for farming, will receive a reward of 15,000 yuan ($2,280). Relocated residents can lease their farmland out. The government will provide free housing for extremely poor households, while the property rights of such homes are retained by the government.

Xu Caicai, a 20-year-old woman and her younger brother, Xu Yajun, have been offered free housing in the resettlement neighborhood in Caiguan Town. Xu just graduated from a vocational school and is looking for a job. Her younger brother is still in school. Xu's father is disabled, and her mother works in an aluminum factory in Shanghai. Financial commitments such as school tuition costs strained the family's finances.

They moved into the new apartment this March, and their mother plans to join them later this year and take a job at a factory on the ground floor of their apartment building. Previously, the family could only get together once a year.

Workers make gloves in a factory in the resettlement area in Caiguan Town, Guizhou Province, on September 8 (WANG HAIRONG)

Working close to home

The ground floors of the resettlement buildings in Xu's neighborhood house a police station, a drug store, shops and factories. Some resettled residents work right under their apartments.

Forty-four-year-old Xu Daijun is employed at a glove-making factory just a stone's-throw from her home, making 2,000 yuan ($394) per month. Her husband, disabled by an injury he sustained while working in a coal mine, stays at home. Her young children attend a primary school and kindergarten nearby. She used to live in the vicinity of a coal mine, but as the mine was hollowed out, the ground fractured and was unsafe to live on, so they moved to Caiguan Town half a year ago.

"The resettlement areas are reasonably chosen so that relocated impoverished people can find jobs and get out of poverty," Xu Min said. Relevant organizations learned of the employment needs of residents and the education needs of their children before the relocation so as to plan the resettlement areas accordingly.

Resettlement areas are usually built close to cities, industrial parks and scenic areas, according to the Poverty Alleviation and Development Office of Guizhou Province. The Qianhuyizhai resettlement area in Shuicheng County in Liupanshui has been designed with employment creation in mind. The area is located in the picturesque Yeyuhai scenic area.

"The area is designed to accommodate 4,123 impoverished persons in 1,006 households," said Yi Na, a tour guide dressed in traditional attire of the Yi ethnic group. As Guizhou seeks to ensure that at least one individual in every poor household has employment, 1,150 persons will be provided with jobs in the scenic area with an average monthly salary of more than 2,000 yuan ($304) each, Xu Min said.

The houses are designed and built to serve both as residences and tourist facilities. They feature a blend of modern architecture and traditional Yi ethnic architectural elements such as adobe walls, thatched roofs and totems. Revenue generated from the houses is split between the constructors, property management and households, according to the share of their investment.

Poverty-stricken residents are encouraged to engage in the development of tourism commodities, performance of ethnic songs and dances, catering services, Chinese herbal medicine and other specialty products, Xu Min said.

"The residents were originally from six surrounding townships that are relatively poor, have no access to water, electricity supplies or modern roads, and are vulnerable to natural disasters such as mudslides. After relocation, they live in a better environment. The scenery is very beautiful. They no longer need to toil in fields. By working only eight hours per day, their salary can reach above the poverty line," Yi said.

Luo Liufei moved to the resettlement area from Faer Township in Shuicheng County in Liupanshui. She used to plant corn but could only earn 3,000 yuan ($456) per year. After relocating, she leased all her land out, which generates the same amount of money as when she farmed it herself. In her new neighborhood, she works as a storekeeper, making 2,000 yuan ($304) per month, while her husband makes the same amount by working as a security guard.

Zhao Yinxi, a middle-aged man, is also satisfied with his new life. Currently, he works as a security guard, while his wife is a cleaner. Their total annual income has more than tripled compared to what they previously earned by cultivating corn in the mountains. The couple's home, built at the foot of a hill, overlooks a lake with a large stretch of green meadow on its banks. Black goats graze on the meadow, and children merrily run around.

Poverty alleviation through relocation is being carried out not only in Guizhou, but also across the nation. Premier Li Keqiang stressed the importance of this program at a conference on this topic held on September 16-17 in Dazhou, Sichuan Province. He said that the program is important for promoting supply-side structural reform, shoring up weak links in poverty-stricken areas and winning the battle against poverty.

He affirmed the achievements that various localities have made in this regard. He pointed out that reasonable arrangements should be made for the scale and progress of relocation projects, project quality should be ensured and project fund management should be standardized. He said efforts should be made in expanding production, creating jobs and increasing incomes, so that every relocated household can get out of poverty.

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