Yan'an: No Longer in Poverty

BEIJING, Jan. 8, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- An article by China.org.cn on how people in Yan'an, a poverty-stricken place:

Yan'an is sacred ground for China's revolutionary history, but also a place that has lagged in economic and cultural development for a long time.

On May 7, 2019, the revolutionary base of Yan'an reached a historic milestone, bidding farewell to absolute poverty as its last two impoverished counties of Yanchuan and Yichuan finally shook off the pernicious yoke.

The struggle behind these milestones are treacherous. As an example, a lack of industry was Shawan Village's Achilles' heel.

At great difficulty, the town government had found a patch of land that was on the leeward side of a slope and also faced the sun, and decided to set up greenhouses for growing vegetables.

Likewise, at Huangjia Geta Village, Yongping Town, Yanchuan County, all of the people live in a deep ravine surrounded by large mountains with infertile soil. They have to drink alkaline water, and walk on muddy roads. Nearly all of the village's young people go elsewhere for work.

Poverty alleviation authorities built 231 greenhouses in the village, but the locals, who had been planting grain for generations, had never grown vegetables in greenhouses before. Here comes the second obstacle: people's mindset.

Village officials went from house to house to convince people to participate, but only 47 families reluctantly agreed.

Local officials had to keep going out and meeting the skeptics, and tried to convince the locals, clear up everybody's concerns. In order to make sure the work got done, local officials even took farmers to other places to let them see the actual benefits of greenhouses.

Everything started from scratch. At first the seedlings would die quickly since the locals didn't know how to plant properly, and the watermelons would not grow big since they didn't know how to take care of them in the right way. Even after struggling to get a harvest, fruits and vegetables would often go unsold.

When faced with planting difficulties, officials would invite specialists and technicians to the village to conduct training, making sure everyone gets the skills.

One by one, the greenhouses started springing up. In Huaziping Town today, greenhouses, apple orchards, and farms for raising animals are spread across every village. More than 400 households that once faced a dearth of opportunities now have access to industries that can bring long-term prosperity, and per-capita net income for the town's poor population has reached 9,853 yuan. In 2018, Huangjia Geta Village's greenhouses together brought in more than 3 million yuan, with per-capita income of more than 10,000 yuan for the 15 poor households planting them.

Altogether 1,784 officials were posted in villages to serve as first secretaries, and 1,546 work teams were posted in villages to work on the front lines, with a total of 37,400 officials providing assistance to assigned households. "With the assistance of officials and the hard work of the people, we can shake off poverty and build prosperity." This is the kind of slogan that can be seen everywhere among the hills of Yan'an.

People in China know of Wuqi as the terminus of the Long March, but it also has a nickname that is only known to the locals: "the desolate roof of Yan'an."

The area has an extremely arid climate and is covered with barren mountains. Every time the wind blows, the air is filled with sand and silt so dense that it blots out the sun. The environment is so bad here that it is as if it keeps the area locked in a chokehold. According to the records of the Yan'an Area Chronicles, in the more than 580 years between the beginning of the Ming Dynasty and the founding of the PRC, Yan'an was affected by natural disasters including drought, flooding, and hail more than 200 times.

The people here live between the winkles of the earth. The more land they try to reclaim, the more barren the land gets. The more barren the land gets, the poorer the people become. The poorer the people become, the more land they try to reclaim. Yan'an has become one of the areas most seriously affected by soil erosion on the upper reaches of the Yellow River.

In 1997, Wuqi County, which relied on goat breeding as its mainstay industry, invited experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to come and inspect the area, in the hopes that they could provide advice for developing the local livestock industry.

This group of experts hit the nail on the head in their evaluation, saying, "Goats should no longer be allowed to graze in Wuqi, as the ecosystem is far too fragile."

A year later, Wuqi led the nation in implementing policies that prohibited grazing on the mountains, supported the planting of trees and grass, and promoted dry lot feeding of goats. This would remove 238,000 goats from open grazing in one fell swoop.

In 1999, the central government launched the Grain for Green Policy, and the people of Yan'an shifted their focus from reclaiming land to afforestation.

However, planting trees in a place as dry and drought-prone as Yan'an was easier said than done.

Spring is the tree planting season, and also the time of year when northern Shaanxi is gripped by a bitter chill. In order to plant trees on the steep cliffs, local officials led the locals up the mountains, climbing with their hands and feet as they carried baskets full of saplings on their backs.

In such a dry and arid place, it is very difficult for all the newly-planted trees to survive, so replanting is required each year. It is perfectly normal to see five generations of trees in a single forest.

Now, 20 years later, the place is surrounded by lush and verdant scenery. Scanning the surroundings from the mountaintop, one can see the nearby apple orchard, which will bear fruit this year. Tourism has developed. The under-forest economy is developing in the mountains. Last year, the size of the village's collective economy surpassed two million yuan, with more than 30 poor families breaking away from poverty completely.

Over 20 years, the people of Yan'an have returned 718,000 hectares of farmland to forest. These efforts have pushed the edge of greenery seen in satellite imagery northward by more than 400 kilometers, and increased vegetation cover from 46.3% in the year 2000 to 81.3% today. Formerly dominated by desolate gullies and ravines, Yan'an was named a national forest city in 2016.

The people of Yan'an always say that without fundamental improvements to the environment, eradicating poverty would be out of the question.

But there are places where environment is extremely harsh and the cost to transform it is too high. In such places, local government decided to relocate local people. Besides leaving their cave houses, these relocated people also start their new ways of living. Instead of farming, they work in cultural and other industries.

In Ansai, 2,524 families have moved to new homes through the campaign to alleviate poverty through relocation.

Every story of escaping from poverty involves a sigh of relief when one finally leaves their misery behind.

Each county, village, and family emerged from poverty through its own approach. On the vast canvas of 37,000 square kilometers of steep ridges and deep gullies, the people of Yan'an drew up one meticulously detailed blueprint after another for guiding themselves out of poverty.

In Luochuan, of the 2,836 poor families able to put out labor power, 2,604 built apple orchards.

In Yanchuan, the locals vigorously developed leading industries including farming apples on hillsides, growing jujubes along the Yellow River, farming in greenhouses on areas of flat land, and raising animals in ravines, and average disposable income per farmer has reached 9,548 yuan.

In Yichuan on the banks of the Yellow River, e-commerce service providers are spread across all of the poor villages.

In 2018, Yan'an's total economic output reached 155.89 billion yuan, with growth of 9.1% setting a five-year high. Tertiary industry and the non-public sector of the economy have grown in proportion to 31.7% and 29.3%, respectively. The pattern under which Yan'an went through ups and downs due to its dependence on oil is in the process of transforming.

The city continues to bear witness as its 2.26 million sons and daughters continue, to advance toward achieving the goal of moderate prosperity in this place that is so important to China's history.

China Mosaic

Yan'an: No Longer in Poverty

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SOURCE China.org.cn