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China's battle against poverty marches on

Updated: 2016-10-21 17:15
LANZHOU - Ma Wenming was once so poor that even using an oil-lamp was a luxury. He never expected that one day he could afford to install electric lights in his new home.

Ma, 50, lives in a mountainous village under Huining county, northwest China's Gansu Province. Huining was once a revolutionary base where three fronts of the Red Army joined forces after the Long March.

Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the country has endeavored to alleviate poverty under the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

Huining is located on a plateau and plagued by severe draught. Local residents have led impoverished lives for generations.

Ma remembers his parents toiling from dawn to dusk in the fields, but his large family of eight could barely make ends meet.

At the age of just 12, Ma quit school to herd sheep to help support his family. When he got married, he lived in a newly-cut cave on a cliff as his family was unable to build a new house for the couple.

China launched an anti-poverty campaign in 1982, and Huining was included on a list of key counties for poverty relief in 1986.

In the summer of 1990, with 300 yuan (44.5 U.S. dollars) he had saved over several years and 700 yuan he had borrowed, Ma bought a bull. However, due to poor feeding methods the bull died from overfeeding. Ma was devastated as his dream of escaping poverty had been shattered by the bulls untimely death.

Refusing to give up, he bit the bullet and borrowed more money to buy a cow. This time around the animal survived, giving birth to nine calves. With the money he made selling the calves, he built a mud house and could use electric light for the first time.

Drought had always meant crops had been poor in the area, but in 2000 the local government introduced plastic film to cover the crops to prevent water evaporation. Thanks to the new technique the yield greatly improved, and the local farmers could bid farewell to their days of starvation.

Village Party chief Ma Junwu said the yield of corn improved from 300 grams per mu (one hectare equals 15 mu) to 1,500 grams per mu.

After using the plastic film, Ma's farmland not only provided enough food for the family but also forage for the cattle.

With the goal of building an all-round moderately prosperous society by 2020, China has been exerting ever greater efforts in poverty alleviation.

A total of 66.63 million people in rural areas were lifted out of poverty from 2012 to 2015. From 2010 to 2015, the number of people in poverty in Huining was reduced by nearly 140,000 as the poverty rate dropped from 45.3 to 24.7 percent.

Ma Wenming is among the villagers who have shaken off poverty. Last September, he used a 50,000 yuan poverty relief loan to buy four Swiss breeds of cattle. The cattle grew fast and sold at a good price.

With profits made from raising the cattle, and government subsidies, Ma built a brick house and spent 2,000 yuan installing five electric lights inside. He plans to move into the house during the Lunar New Year after finishing the interior decoration.

At the same time, his mud cattleshed was renovated into a brick one.

Ma is looking forward to next month when the village will gain access to tap water. "Currently, we have to fetch water for the cattle from 20 kilometers away every ten days, which costs us 60 yuan each time," he said.

Tong Lin, director of poverty relief office of Huining, said, "Despite the achievements in poverty alleviation, there is still a long way to go, as our ultimate goal is to help the residents live a well-off life."
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