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How Dongchuan in Yunnan Shook off Poverty
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How Dongchuan in Yunnan Shook off Poverty

DONGCHUAN District in the northernmost part of Kunming City, Yunnan Province, is famous for its magnificent red soil. It is yet a deeply impoverished region due to the fragility of its ecosystems and exhaustion of resources. Nevertheless the district successfully got rid of poverty in 2019, a remarkable achievement for the local people. Incidence of poverty there dropped from 52.88 percent in 2013 to zero in 2019.

Tailored Measures

The district is located at the intersection where the provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan meet. As the core area of the economic hub at the lower reaches of the Jinsha River, it connects Kunming to the Sichuan-Chongqing economic circle and the upper Yangtze River economic belt. It is a typical resource-based district relying on the exploiting of copper and other minerals. However, with the change of time, the depletion of resources has gradually become a dilemma restricting its development. In order to first guarantee residential safety for the local people, the district authorities took relocation of poor villages as the first approach to overcome poverty.

In Yinmin Town, there is one such resettlement community, with rows of brand-new highrise buildings built in a mountain valley to provide decent housing for those who were relocated there. Students from the community can take a school bus to and from school. The residents now are enjoying a much better life. According to Lei Yun, the town’s Party chief, the district’s relocation program has placed equal emphasis on living and working, and as a result pushed forward the efforts in relocation, industry cultivation, and employment skill training in a coordinated way to ensure that the resettled people can find jobs and free themselves of poverty. In addition, the local authorities have also worked to ensure that these people will enjoy services in terms of social security, health care, and education.

The relocation program in Dongchuan District involved a total of 32,227 people in 8,754 households, and 95.67 percent of them have been resettled in towns. It has taken the lead in the province in terms of the speed of infrastructure construction, urbanization rate, and follow-up service guarantee.

What’s more, the district has implemented a series of poverty alleviation policies in line with local conditions, including an industry development plan to facilitate income growth by allowing registered poor households with labor capacity to participate in industrial development projects. These policies give equal emphasis to poverty alleviation , local development, and ecological protection. Ecological compensation funds have benefited 88,057 poor people. Employment efforts helped to create 66,395 jobs for rural surplus labor, including 5,000 rural public service posts.

 Li Guoxiu and his wife. Zhu Feng

“Get Ourselves Out of Poverty”

Poverty alleviation depends on the endogenous motivation of the poor and is achieved through their own hard work.

There is a couple in Pingzi Village, Wulong Town, Dongchuan, who are physically challenged. Li Guoxiu was born without hands, but she can do household chores and farm work in the field. What is even more amazing is that the insoles she embroiders with her feet are exquisite and durable. Zhang Shundong was injured by electric shock when he was a boy. His right hand and feet were eventually amputated, leaving him with only a healthy left hand. Nevertheless, his approach to life has always been to not dwell on his physical challenges but rather be tenacious and determined about all he does. Supported by governmental subsidies, the couple moved into a new home. Zhang began raising pigs, sheep, chickens, and ducks in their neat farmyard. Wearing prosthetic limbs, he is often seen busy at work.

Their two children both have jobs, and their daughter became a teacher after graduating from college. The whole family tirelessly strives to become stronger, overcome difficulties, and put poverty behind them.

Entrepreneurial Talents Pooled for Rural Revitalization

Only with the accumulation of talented individuals can the villages be revitalized, and the results of poverty alleviation be consolidated. In order to attract entrepreneurial talents, the district has worked hard to create a good entrepreneurial environment, provide a platform for entrepreneurship, and guide and encourage migrant workers to return and lead the battle against poverty in their hometowns.

Yantou Village is located 2,000 meters above sea level, and its 53 hectares of winter peaches are expected to give a high yield. The 33-year-old Shao Xingwen is busy in the orchard. This is his fifth year since he returned home to start a business. Once engaged in transport work, he now grows winter peaches to generate a good income. Through a business model incorporating the village Party organization, related cooperatives, the planting base and farmers, Shao and his peach industry is inspiring hope to develop the village and improve the villagers’ quality of life.

Also among those who have returned to Dongchuan is Ma Ka, a woman of the Yi ethnic minority. She sold her house in downtown Kunming three years ago and returned to her hometown to run a tourist homestay, which although posed a big challenge in the beginning is now bearing fruit. In January 2018, Ma Ka and Shao Tianwen also opened a large-scale Yi-style tourism project to help 261 poverty-stricken households rise out of poverty and improve their income through tourism.

Cooperation on Poverty Alleviation

The collaboration in poverty alleviation between east and west China provides opportunities to accelerate the development of Dongchuan’s economy and promote targeted poverty alleviation. In 2019, RMB 50.4 million in funds were used in the district to implement 13 poverty alleviation cooperation projects, of which the infrastructure construction have all started. The cumulative donations from Shanghai authorities, businesses, and people from all walks of life are worth about RMB 10 million.

The assistance, given by the Putuo District in Shanghai, has brought financial and technical support to Dongchuan, and also brought about changes in the development concept of local villagers. The idea of agricultural industrialization and scale development has become the poor people’s new way of thinking.

All the efforts paid off in 2019. Local people know that getting rid of poverty is not the end, but a new starting point. Stabilizing the results of poverty alleviation and preventing a recurrence of poverty are the new goals of the poverty reduction work in Dongchuan.  

WEI BO is a reporter at 

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