Villagers living the high life on the road to prosperity - Economy & Society - Tibetol

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Villagers living the high life on the road to prosperity
By:China Daily
update:February 12,2018
Feb. 12, 2018 -- Lan Guohua used to plant corn and potatoes in Laoying, a village that sits at an elevation of 2,500 meters in Xiaojin county, Sichuan province.
 
At the age of 55, he never expected that he could double his income by raising yaks, but that's what happened after the local government built a road to connect the isolated settlement with the outside world.
 
The village, in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, has a population of 3,000 people, 80 percent of whom are members of the Tibetan ethnic group.
 
It used to be nicknamed majiao, or "Can't feel your feet", because outsiders had to walk along a steep path that zigzagged up the mountain to reach it, which left their feet numb.
 
The area around the village has an average elevation of 2,000 m.
 
The mountainous terrain not only made it difficult to grow crops, but also meant farmers had to travel long distances along dirt paths to transport their produce to the market in Xiaojin.
 
Anything left unsold at the end of the day had to be carried back along the same paths.
 
Things changed in 2013 when the asphalt road was completed.
 
The improved infrastructure allowed access for businesses. Also, advanced farming techniques were brought to the area, raising living standards and lifting local people out of poverty.
 
In 2014, President Xi Jinping called for more efforts to construct, maintain, protect and manage rural roads to provide greater help for countryside residents.
 
In response, the Xiaojin government established a special fund to expand its road-construction program.
 
It provided more than 5 million yuan ($800,000), and set a goal of building or renovating 1,400 kilometers of rural roads in the county. By 2016, about 131.5 km of roads had been completed.
 
"The road contributed to the area's industrial development and provided a special marketing channel for agricultural produce," said Yao Qijie, head of Xiaojin.
 
Fruitful developments
 
The road has been a boon to Lan and his family. Every year, his daughter, Lan Guichun, grows more than 2,000 kilograms of grapes on her 1.5 hectares of land.
 
Before the road was built, she had to employ six men to carry the fruit to the county seat for sale. That is no longer necessary.
 
"Now, I only need to wait in my house for the local wine producer, Jiuzhaigou Natural Wine Industry Co, to collect the grapes," the 31-year-old said.
 
In 2001, the company established a winery in Laoying. Grapes grown by villagers are collected and stored at the facility, and the company makes 6,000 metric tons of wine every year.
 
The road and the development of the local wine industry have helped 23 impoverished households-about 93 people-to break out of poverty, especially as the company provides local farmers with training to help them grow their grapes. The work provides extra per capita income of about 3,200 yuan a year.
 
"The training helped a lot because I learned when to prune branches and how to use fertilizer," Lan Guichun said.
 
Every villager's small vineyard has its own concrete road which allows trucks to enter and transport the grapes to the winery, making life more convenient.
 
"About 10 years ago, every ton of grapes had to be carried up the hill to the winery," said Xiao Shan, general manager of Jiuzhaigou Natural Wine Industry Co.
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