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Government Set to Assist Needy Farmers
The Chinese Government has decided to arm millions of poverty-laden farmers with basic knowledge of market economy practices to help them adapt to competition, according to a senior State Council official.

The priority trainees this year are those farmers living below the absolute poverty line in 53,000 key villages nationwide, said Lu Feijie, vice-chairman of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

"For the poor, the priority is to teach them how to fish, not to give them fish," said Lu. "This is the most important policy we should insist on."

The training will focus on market analysis and guidance for farmers to raise crops which have market potential.

Lu made the remarks at yesterday's national conference on poverty reduction, which was attended by provincial and county-level officials via teleconference.

The Chinese Government defines absolute poverty as a situation in which people do not have enough food or clothing. Between 1978 and 2002, the number of poverty-stricken people without sufficient food or clothing decreased from 250 million to 28.2 million, and the proportion of poverty-stricken people to the total rural population dropped from 30.7 per cent to about 3 per cent.

However, most Chinese farmers, especially those in poverty-stricken areas, are conservative and lack market awareness because of long-time self-sufficiency.

The training will expand to include all impoverished farmers nationwide by 2010.

Lu also said vocational training for needy farmers is essential for them to shake off poverty.

"As urbanization accelerates, Chinese farmers will continue moving to cities," said Lu.

Liu Fuhe, another senior official with the State office told China Daily that vocational training and other essential knowledge will ensure they can find jobs in cities quickly.

"Vocational training will sharpen their capabilities," said Liu, adding other knowledge such as basic sanitary practices will also be important for them.

"One lesson we have got from the SARS outbreak is to popularize cleanliness and disease prevention knowledge among farmers before they enter into cities," said Liu.

(China Daily June 20, 2003)

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