Across China: Relocation brings mountain villagers new lease of life

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KUNMING, May 12 (Xinhua) -- Living in the mountains, Xiang Fuzhen no longer has to prepare her great-grandchildren two sets of clothes for school.

"In the past, kids would change into clean clothes when getting to school, as rugged mountain roads always made them sweat," said the 71-year-old of the Miao ethnic minority group. "Walking to school meant a mud bath on rainy days, while sunny days often brought them dust clouds."

Xiang fought against the mountains for decades. On the road stretching for about five km from her village to the nearest school, she used to climb with both hands and feet, sending her children and grandchildren.

"I never stopped thinking about moving out," said Xiang.

With bright eyes, Xiang is not tall but looks hale and hearty, seemingly unaffected by the difficulties she has gone through. Her husband and two sons died of illness and accident and her granddaughter suffered from meningitis. The unforeseen mishaps left the woman utterly destitute.

Her old tile-roofed house of wood and adobe on the top of the mountains was in disrepair, with some cracks in the walls wide enough to stuff several fingers through.

"People always say I had a hard life, but I never give up," she said.

To make a living, Xiang tried to run small businesses and once worked as a barefoot doctor in the village, but she still lacked enough money to escape the mountains or poverty.

The woman embraced the light at the end of the tunnel in 2018, when she was relocated from the top of the mountain to the foot, amid the country's efforts to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020, with the new house standing only a few hundred meters away from the school by cement road.

"After all the hardships, good days finally came," Xiang said.

Xiaoshuijing Village where Xiang lives in Renhe Township, southwest China's Yunnan Province, used to sit on a typical hill in the rocky desertified region.

With almost endless peaks, the Miao border village lagged behind due to inconvenient transportation and poor production conditions. Of Xiaoshuijing's 26 households, 17 lived below the poverty line before 2018, registering a per capita net income of less than 3,000 yuan (about 424 U.S. dollars) a year.

"Xiaoshuijing has poor conditions in housing, roads, water and electricity, which made it hard to get rid of poverty at the original site," said Yang Siqing, head of Renhe Township.

Local authorities decided to resettle the whole village for poverty eradication and in less than a year, Xiang and other residents of Xiaoshuijing moved into new houses down the hill.

Xiang spent about 6,000 yuan for the much-needed relocation program but received a subsidy of 10,000 yuan as her old house was reclaimed by the local government to make better use of the land.

"With the help of the government, I didn't spend a penny but instead got 4,000 yuan in achieving my dream of moving out," Xiang said.

Now, Xiaoshuijing is not a quiet village at night anymore. "People were reluctant to go outside in the past as the mountains were dark after sunset. The new village, however, is bright everywhere, and we all sing and dance at night," Xiang said.

After relocation, Xiaoshuijing successfully cast off poverty last year, thanks to a raft of supporting policies such as employment assistance and subsistence allowances, but the woman did not stop working hard.

Last October, she braved the light rain and carefully planted 300 seedlings of amomi fructus, a well-known traditional Chinese medicine, the planting area of which has expanded to 0.67 hectares these days and will bring her tens of thousands of yuan after harvest.

"I wish I were 30 years younger, but even at the age of 71, I will live my life gallantly," she said. Enditem

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