Targeted government programs have completely transformed village in Hunan
After a decade of development, Shibadong village has undergone a monumental transformation thanks to China's targeted poverty alleviation programs.
Located in Shuanglong township of Huayuan county in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture in Hunan province, Shibadong used to be a poverty-stricken village, where 57 percent of its residents lived below the poverty line before 2013. At that time, their annual per capita net income was only 1,668 yuan ($229), which was less than one-fifth of the national average.
To help increase the income of Shibadong residents, in 2013, the central government began conducting targeted poverty reduction by taking advantage of the village's resources to develop industries such as fruit cultivation, mountain spring water, premium tea and homestay tourism. The following year, local authorities adopted a pattern encouraging villagers and businesses to establish a joint venture that saw around 70 hectares developed into a kiwi fruit base. Nowadays, that base has helped increase the average income of local farmers, with each household member receiving nearly 800 yuan in annual dividends. This year, local villagers started selling kiwi fruit nationwide through e-commerce platforms.
In addition to kiwi fruit, Huayuan county has promoted its "golden" type of green tea by cooperating with businesses to build a 667-hectare plantation base and form a tea cultivation cooperative. In October, a total of 182.4 kilograms of golden tea was supplied to Hong Kong, underlining the success of the county's cross-boundary trade.
Shibadong's high altitude and proximity to mountain water also benefits its residents. The village attracted investment from businesses to build a spring water bottling plant with a fully automated production line that can produce about 10,000 bottles of water per hour. The factory generates collective revenue of around 600,000 yuan per year for the village and provides year-round stable employment for dozens of residents.
Another asset for Shibadong villagers is Miao embroidery. Shi Shunlian, 69, head of the Shibadong farmer cooperative for Miao embroidery, has overseen training in the ancient skill for more than 95 percent of local women since retiring in 2014.
The village has gone the extra mile to ink cooperative agreements with several businesses, making Miao embroidery an important avenue for helping locals escape poverty. In 2018, the cooperative achieved cooperation with CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive, which helped expand the embroidery business to countries and regions involved in the Belt and Road Initiative through high-speed railway transportation.
"CRRC Zhuzhou gives us orders of at least 100,000 to 200,000 yuan per year. I am very relieved to see the embroidery workers can earn from stable work," Shi said.
Due to Shibadong's development of the Miao embroidery industry, many former migrant workers have returned to the village to join the business, which generated a production value of 450,000 yuan in 2022.
In addition to developing industries, local authorities have provided targeted assistance to individuals like Long Xianlan, who escaped severe poverty through beekeeping. He keeps more than 400 hives himself and helps more than 100 households maintain in excess of 1,200. Today, between beekeeping and bacon-making, Long earns more than 500,000 yuan annually.
Shibadong's progress in the integration of culture and tourism is another avenue of job creation for villagers. In 2021, the nearby areas of the Aizhai town and Dehang Canyon were rated as national 5A-level scenic spots, while the opening of the Zhangjiajie-Jishou-Huaihua High-Speed Railway and Xiangxi Biancheng Airport has significantly increased the flow of tourists.
Yang Zhengbang, who used to be a migrant worker, has returned to Shibadong and now operates a homestay. "Summer vacation is our peak tourist season, with an average of more than 400 guests served per day and a gross income of 2,000 yuan," Yang said.
In 2022, the village received more than 500,000 visits, official data showed.
As a century-old village of the Miao ethnic group, Shibadong boasts 90 percent Miao-style buildings and 10 percent ancient architecture. In 2018, village authorities invited a planning and design team to renovate its natural resources, historical and cultural sites and infrastructure. The team retained the ancient style of the Miao ethnic group, restored houses of Miao people and built tourist facilities, integrating the buildings with the surrounding landscape of mountains, rivers and fields.
The village has also renovated the ancient post road, opened a Miao embroidery experience hall and set up more than 100 stalls in multiple markets, providing employment opportunities for hundreds of villagers.
Nowadays, rural tourism has engaged 398 villagers in tourism services and related industries, and almost 900 residents have found employment near their homes.
In August, the Xiangxi Biancheng Airport was officially put into operation. The improved transport access has brought Shibadong more development opportunities and helped reverse the brain drain by attracting young people and graduates.
Shi Kang, secretary of the Youth League branch in Shibadong, returned to the village in 2019 after graduating from college.
Shi Kang, who studied animation design, is skilled in photography and video editing. He brought together several like-minded young people to record life in the rural area of Shibadong village and screen it on a short-video platform. Moreover, he registered an account on the Douyin social media platform to help villagers sell agricultural products such as honey, bacon and chili peppers through e-commerce platforms.
"The sales through livestreaming have reached more than 1 million yuan, not only selling many high-quality products for Shibadong village but also boosting the local industries," Shi Kang said. "In terms of employment, besides six full-time team members, we hire villagers to help with packaging and shipping. More than 100 people out of fewer than 1,000 residents in the village have joined us."
Over the past decade, Shibadong village has made remarkable achievements. The per capita annual income of residents has increased from 1,688 yuan in 2013 to 23,505 yuan in 2022, while the collective economy has grown from zero to 3.8 million yuan in 2022, local officials said.
The picturesque scenery of Huayuan county in the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture in Hunan province. CHINA DAILY
From left: Villagers of Shibadong reap a good harvest of kiwi fruit in autumn. Villagers of Shibadong hold a discussion on rural vitalization in a square of the village. CHINA DAILY