What should be feared is not poverty, but people’s losing confidence in shaking off poverty. This is the most important thing I’ve learnt in Baimashan village since I was appointed the first secretary of the village Party committee in 2017.
Baimashan village used to be one of the poorest villages in central China’s Hubei province, with 346 poor people of 120 households. Due to backward infrastructure, sluggish industry growth, and the fact that nearly half of the poor population of the village didn’t have professional skills, what I heard people complain about the most when I first visited the village was “I don’t have a proper way to make money.”
Bao Shengyun’s family was a typical example of impoverished households in the locality.
Bao and her husband, both in their fifties, have neither a decent educational background nor skills to make handicrafts. The couple lived in an adobe house at a hillside and had been carrying goods with a shoulder pole to sell for a living for many years.
According to Bao, she had to walk more than two hours on the earth road every day and carry goods on her shoulders to sell at the mountaintop of the Baimashan scenic area in the village.
“It is tough, and yet we can’t get much money from it,” Bao told me when I visited her house for the first time. Her family was leading a quite hard life at that time and I encouraged them to figure out ways to get rid of poverty.
After in-depth investigation into the village, my colleagues and I found out the crux of the problems hindering the development of village.
Located about 30 kilometers from the center of Shiyan city, Baimashan has a foundation for tea industry and enchanting scenery, but had been long encumbered by weak links in infrastructure, in particular, its poor traffic conditions. Without good roads, it was hard for the scenic area in the village to attract tourists and build the brand.
After identifying the root cause of the problems, we quickly made a plan and started to improve the village through multiple measures.
We won policy and financial support from many departments and finally renovated 7 kilometers of roads to Baimashan village, held a series of rich and colorful activities featuring folk customs and culture after Baimashan’s scenic area was declared a national three-A tourist attraction, and attracted tea companies to the village and established poverty alleviation tea workshops.
As the traffic and environment of the village is gradually improved, more visitors have been attracted to Baimashan village.
Bao saw a business opportunity of opening an agritainment restaurant and came to me for help as she couldn’t find a site and lacked start-up capital.
I was delighted to see that she was in surprisingly high spirits and helped her maintain good relations with her neighbors while demolishing her old house and establishing a new one.
After a new house was built, Bao started with the agritainment business and we even set up a advertising board in front of her agritainment restaurant.
When we saw her later at the entrance of Baimashan village, she had a big smile on her face and told us with confidence that her restaurant was doing very well and could easily bring in 30,000 ($4,386) to 40,000 yuan per year.
We suggested that she should adopt mobile payments in her restaurant. Before long, people could pay bills at Bao’s agritainment restaurant by scanning QR codes.
By enhancing infrastructure construction, cultivating leading industries, and building and promoting brand, Baimashan village has blazed a development road featuring tea industry and tourism. It has increased the per capita annual income of local people by 3,000 yuan on average and shaken off poverty.
Today, the annual collective income of Baimashan village has exceeded 250, 000 yuan. The figure is expected to reach 350,000 yuan in 2021.
Moreover, the village has established a tea culture base, developed about 83.33 hectares of standardized tea gardens, and held five folk customs and culture-themed tourism festivals.
The barren wastelands in the old days have been replaced by vast areas of orchards and tea gardens, while the adobe houses in the past have been changed into beautiful western-style buildings.
With more than 20 family inns and agritainment restaurants scattered in the village, Baimashan, a once remote and poor village, has become a popular holiday resort for people living in urban areas.
The three years of experience in poverty alleviation made me realize that as long as we find the right development path for a place and work hard together with the local people, we can surely create a better life for them.
(By Tian Huanan, first secretary of Baimashan village Party committee, Bailin township, Zhangwan district, Shiyan, Hubei province.)