Xihaigu Prefecture in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, one of the eight poorest areas in China, completely got rid of poverty in 2000 as scheduled after a 17-year-long poverty-relief campaign.
Statistics show that grain output in Xihaigu stood at some 800 million kg in the past few years, compared with 600 million kg in 1982. Accordingly, the annual per capita grain consumption of local residents increased by 50 percent, from 200 kg to 300 kg.
The per capita net income of local farmers averaged 1,100 yuan annually and that of farmers in some affluent counties even surpassed 3,000 yuan, said a local official, adding that all this shows that most of the 2.6 million people in Xihaigu have adequate food and clothing.
Home to a large number of Chinese Moslems, Ningxia is one of the most underdeveloped regions in China, while Xihaigu, a mountainous area frequented by natural disasters, is the poorest part of Ningxia.
The prefecture occupies an area of 30,456 square km in southern Ningxia, with an elevation ranging from 1,300 to 2,900 meters above sea level. Nearly 80 percent of the land in the prefecture used to suffer from soil erosion, drought, hail, frost, flood and windstorms.
By early 1980s, some 1.3 million people, or 70 percent of its farmers, were still living under the poverty line.
Since the Chinese government launched a national anti-poverty program in 1983, with emphasis placed on such key areas as Xihaigu, Dingxi and Hexi Corridor, more than five billion yuan of investment has been injected into the development of Xihaigu.
With the funds, local farmers have built 200 water projects, turned 46,000 hactares of arid land into irrigated fields and connected all counties with highway networks.
Technicians spread dry farming, cultivation under plastic film, crop-breeding and other up-to-date techniques. The traditional method of extensive cultivation has been replaced by high-efficiency and high-yielding farming mode.
Program-controlled telephone services have reached most families in the eight counties in Xihaigu. With ground satellite receivers, all households in this mountainous area have access to broadcasting and television programs.
Now more local farmers are turning to non-farming business for more pocket money. The prefecture has built six pillar industries to process fruit, animal by-products, starch and flax based on local resources. Last year, local rural industrial enterprises turned out a combined output value of one billion yuan.
Meanwhile, 23 new villages have been built at the irrigated areas along the Yellow River for 300,000 people from poverty-stricken mountainous areas in Xihaigu. In addition to farming, the new comers have built industrial parks and commercial centers there.
In the wake of agricultural reforms, some brave young men tried their luck in other Chinese provinces. In Yangcao Village alone, 350 farmers out the 1,000-odd laborers in the village went out for new jobs in 1999. They brought back 360,000 yuan the same year.