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Kucong Villages, Refreshed Outlook Year by Year
Text by Yu Ge
 

Wang Wenfen (left) preparing fodder with a villager.

 

Under the circumstances, when most regions were projecting reports of their increased GDP, exposing Kucong people's poverty was not easy. However, on the issue of supporting Kucong people to overcome poverty and achieve prosperity, Pu'er City's position was consistent with the policy of Yunnan Province. In Zhenyuan where most Kucong people resided, annual revenues were only 30 million yuan as opposed to expenditure of 200 million yuan. Therefore, exclusively relying on the local government to help Kucong people was far from enough. What was also needed was external publicity to attract attention of all sections of Chinese society.

Owing to thorough research and close coordination by the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council, a campaign for helping and supporting the poor was launched. At the end of 2005, Yunnan Provincial Government set up a specialized "guiding group for poverty alleviation and supporting development projects of Kucong people in Zhenyuan County," followed by the introduction of a five-year plan for the purpose. In addition, the General Political Department of the People's Liberation Army, together with Shanghai Municipal Government and Baosteel, participated in the campaign.

Diao Yinghui reveals that Kucong people received only 3.8 years of education on average. Due to low level of social development, the initial support should start from teaching them how to wash their face and brush their teeth. In addition, since they were not used to living in the plains after relocation with government support, some villagers moved back to the mountains. "We had to persuade them to move down again, and ask specialized technical personnel to teach them how to cultivate rice," Diao explains.

In order to help Kucong people adopt a civilized way of life and achieve prosperity through hard work, local officials were assigned to provide poverty reduction aid to designated families. At a crucial stage of this process (2006 to 2007), director Chen Ju from the county's poverty alleviation office could not go home for a month. The funds under her control for poverty alleviation were as much as 40 million yuan. When a poor family she assisted moved down from the mountain, she spent nearly 8,000 yuan buying them two pigs, together with fodder, clothes, sofa, TV, etc. The family of three was allocated 0.5 acres of land, two vegetable plots and 0.66 acres of mountain forests. Life depended on cultivating rice, growing vegetables and raising pigs.

Wang Wenfen, who was 32 years old at the time, was born in the mountainous Jiujia Village, which is 100 kilometers from Zhenyuan. Due to a lack of residence, she went out to work from the age of nine – tended to pigs or cooked for others and lived wherever she worked. On the eve of the Spring Festival in 2008, she and her husband obtained a 10,000-yuan loan, and the family moved into a two-story building constructed with the assistance of Shanghai Municipal Government. When she was a child, food from their land was not enough to feed her family: "We had only corn to eat. Now, it's better as there are different kinds of grains and in sufficient quantity, and our incomes are much higher than before," she recalls.

Compared with many other Kucong villagers, Wang Wenfen was quite open-minded. She sent her eldest daughter to the best school in town. "At least let her finish high school," she says. She spent 5,700 yuan buying a motorcycle on credit for sending her children to school. Even today, when she talks about being unable to go to school because her family was poor, Wang's eyes well up with tears. Now, her husband makes money outside, while she takes care of her school-going children: "Even for 200,000 yuan, I will not sell this house and land. I finally have my own house and have settled down.

By the beginning of 2008, there was on-spot reconstruction of 54 Kucong villages and relocation of eight, with 410 families of more than 2,000 people moving into new homes. Industry support, technical training and some effective poverty- alleviation schemes have also been launched.

 

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