Out of mountains, out of poverty

By Liu Jianing
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 24, 2021
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Against the Qilian Mountain faraway, smooth roads stretch to the horizon. The houses with white walls and colorful roofs accompanying rows of greenhouses, with trees scattering around them, all constitute the scenery of the Huanghuatan relocation area of Gulang county in Wuwei city. The area used to be nothing but endless Gobi desert with few blades of grass. 

Hu Zhongshan, Party secretary of the Huanghuatan Post-relocation Industrial Cooperative in Gulang county, Gansu province, attends a group interview held by the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on May 28, 2021. [Photo by Xu Xiang/China SCIO]

It would be impossible but for the strenuous efforts of the 59-year-old Party secretary, Hu Zhongshan, who was a delegate of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and a National Role Model Party Member. 

Persuading villagers to relocate 

In 1993, Hu was elected the Party secretary of Jiashanling village, a remote backwater located deep in the mountains with more than 100 households. Seeing his fellow villagers mired in poverty, Hu decided to help them to relocate to Huanghuatan. 

Hu started by speaking with nine villagers. Yet after repeated talks, the villagers remained hesitant as they were unfamiliar with the world outside the mountains and uncertain about making this big of a change. To persuade them, Hu signed contracts with them, promising to sell all his belongings to give each household a compensatory payment of 10,000 yuan, if they were unsatisfied with the relocation after three years.

After the relocation, Hu sold all his valuables, and worked with villagers day and night, digging wells, building houses, leveling fields for crops, and providing electricity to houses and facilities. Each of the 37 vegetable greenhouses they constructed earned more than 10,000 yuan on average the next year.

The initial success attracted more villagers to come. However, eager to shake off poverty, some villagers tended to solicit assistance and subsidies from the government. Hu was seriously against this mindset. 

One villager received 24 sheep from the local government. Several days later, he had only eight left, selling the rest to pay for his children's tuitions and a family member's medical fees. He said he thought that villager's selling sheep for money to solve pressing difficulties was not the way to get rid of poverty. 

Although he was upset over the villager's decision, Hu was sympathetic to his difficulties. He used his own money to build three breeding houses and buy 15 sheep for the villager, under the condition that no sheep can be sold without Hu's consent. Two years later, the villager's stock of sheep grew to 120, and it surged to more than 1,000 by 2017. 

Hu Zhongshan talks with a villager about livestock breeding on Sept. 27, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

Establishing cooperatives for sustainable development

In 2011, Hu borrowed money and established a breeding farm. He also raised 2 million yuan for the project and purchased bricks, concrete, and steel worth 2.75 million yuan on credit, helping villagers to build their greenhouses. 

Next, the Party secretary organized training for 4,000 people to improve their skills, and the well-trained villagers helped others as well. Though starting with poor conditions and a weak foundation, Huanghuatan village was transformed into a well-off village through industrial development. 

Since an industrial cooperative in Huanghuatan village was organized in 2013, Hu, as the first secretary of the cooperative's Party committee, coordinated preferential loans worth more than 100 million yuan for villagers, and used 2.8 million of his own money as funds for poor villagers to start their business by 2016. 

Hu Zhongshan (L, 2nd) talks with colleagues about problems in building greenhouses on Sept. 27, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

Adopting methods of large-scale and standardized production, and emphasizing high-quality, excellent branding, and good prices, the secretary taught villagers to reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizers and pesticides and produce pollution-free green food. Thanks to Hu, a livestock market with an annual trading volume of 400 million yuan and a constant-temperature warehouse worth 26 million yuan were established, bringing more profits to 60,000 relocated villagers. 

Through concerted efforts of Hu and his villagers and the support from the government, the industrial cooperative had opened eight branches and 32 specialized cooperatives for farmers by 2016, with 7,300 livestock shelters, and 3,400 mu (about 227 hectares) of cash forests, laying a solid foundation for sustaining the villagers' well-off lives after the relocation. The number of sheep and cows amounted to 170,000 by 2021.

With more than 20 years of hard work, Hu has delivered benefits to local residents, changing their way of living. 

"What benefits can I bring to villagers? That's the question I have been asking myself, and the driving force to push me forward," Hu said. 

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