Ecological poverty-relief programmes in China help increase income for rural residents
Gu Zhongyang, Yu Jingxian
For nearly 10 years, forestry and grassland bureaus at various levels in China have actively practised the philosophy of “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets”, and vigorously advanced the country’s poverty alleviation campaign through ecological compensation, afforestation, and the development of ecological industry.
These bureaus have completed all the tasks and targets set in the country’s programmes designed to promote poverty reduction through ecological conservation and restoration, lifting over 20 million poor people out of poverty.
Li Yuhua, a forest ranger in Gongshan Derung and Nu autonomous county, southwest China's Yunnan province, is often seen walking through the mountain forest beside the Derung River in local ethnic clothes.
According to Li, she gains a subsidy of 800 yuan (about $124) per month by taking care of the forest. The forest ranger has also been able to take care of her family and engage in various forms of under-forest industries, such as planting black cardamom, growing traditional Chinese medicinal herbs, and raising bees.
In 2020, Li secured an annual income of over 100,000 yuan.
Over 4,000 forest rangers in the county like Li have been able to work in their hometowns and shake off poverty while guarantee the management and protection of the county’s more than 5.71 million mu (about 3,807 square kilometres) of forests.
In some regions of China, rangers are also assigned tasks of managing and protecting grasslands and wetlands.
Tashi Tsering, a ranger in Changjiangyuan village, Golmud city, northwest China’s Qinghai province, feels a sense of mission from guarding the ecology of the source of China’s Yangtze River.
The ranger’s routine work includes checking on local grassland and monitoring whether the grassland is overloaded by cattle and sheep.
Qinghai province has created public welfare jobs for protecting and managing forestry and grassland resources. It has hired 49,900 qualified poverty-stricken residents as rangers. By increasing the average per capita annual income of these people by nearly 20,000 yuan, the province has lifted the families of these rangers out of poverty.
China’s forest and grassland areas that suffer from destruction, major areas for ecological protection and regions that are ecologically vulnerable are usually severely impoverished areas.
They are the main battlefields of China’s fight against poverty as well as the core of forest and grassland programmes.
China has blazed a path of poverty alleviation that features ecological compensation in these areas, said Li Chunliang, deputy head of China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration, adding that the country has hired over 1.1 million registered poor villagers as rangers and lifted more than 3 million people in impoverished areas out of poverty.
Li noted that China has increased the area of forest and grass resources under management and protection by nearly 900 million mu, thus achieving win-win results in protecting ecology and increasing residents’ income.
In response to the government’s call for treating Horqin Sandy Land in Tongliao city, north China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Chun Mei, a local villager, and her husband have created a wood of pinus sylvestris, acer monoes, and aspens around their house.
Every year, the couple takes part in afforestation projects launched by local government. While Chun earns 100 yuan per day by planting and watering trees, her husband gets a daily wage of 400 yuan by levelling the ground with tractor and digging pits for saplings.
“As the sandy land turns greener and the grasslands could support more cattle, we have also become better-off,” said Chun, who has recently renovated her house. Last year, her family gained an income of 100,000 yuan.
Under the project of returning farmland to forest, Chama town, Qinglong county, southwest China’s Guizhou province, has tapped into the huajiao (Sichuan pepper) industry according to local conditions in recent years. The Sichuan pepper trees have helped 11,700 local residents shake off poverty.
“I earn over 20,000 yuan every year by working in a local Sichuan pepper planting base, and receive a subsidy of 1,200 yuan for each mu of farmland that I have changed into forest and used to grow Sichuan pepper,” said Yi Hongzhong, a villager of Chama town who has bid farewell to poverty.
While protecting ecology and exploring tourism, Baichao township, Guangyuan city, southwest China’s Sichuan province, has endeavoured to develop itself into a tourist town featuring eco-healthcare.
Yueba village of the township, which boasts alpine wetlands and dense primitive forests, has become an Internet-famous tourist destination.
In 2019, the village received more than 300,000 tourists, and the per capita income of more than 500 local tourism practitioners reached 28,000 yuan.
Yang Xiulin, a resident in Yueba village, has changed his house into a homestay hotel. Last year, Yang’s family gained nearly 100,000 yuan from the business.
By pursuing eco-friendly income sources for villagers, more and more once-impoverished villages in China have helped rural residents bid farewell to poverty and march toward comprehensive revitalization of rural areas.
* This article was published in partnership with People’s Daily Online SA.