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
 
"The rocks and dirt roads made production very difficult."
 
The poor infrastructure also made it difficult to take delivery of materials brought in from Shandong province which were used in the production and packaging processes.
 
Ten years ago, the journey took about two weeks, but the road means it now takes half that time, he added.
 
The improved access has also boosted profits, which have risen tenfold in the past decade, from 10 million yuan to 100 million yuan a year.
 
Last year, an e-commerce company was set up in Chengdu, the provincial capital, to sell the wine online.
 
Cheaper crops
 
The standard of living also rose because it became cheaper to grow and sell crops, which meant the villagers could spend the money they saved on themselves.
 
"Cultivation costs were very high before the road was built," said Mao Yongfeng, Party chief of Xiaojin.
 
"We estimate that the improvements helped people to save about 3,200 yuan each per year, meaning they had more disposable income."
 
The road also enabled many villagers to herd yaks, which brought in an extra 1,500 yuan per person a month.
 
Before, the steep mountain path was dangerous, so herders were unwilling to risk sending their animals to the highest elevations where the best grazing land was to be found.
Instead, they grazed their herds on inferior grass at lower altitudes.
 
Once the road was completed, the herders were able to send their yaks higher, resulting in leaner, tastier meat and better profits.
 
The autonomous prefecture, in the western part of Sichuan province, is traditionally one of China's poorest regions.
 
At the end of last year, 15,200 people of its population of 920,000 were living in 123 villages that were classified as "impoverished".
 
Tourism and tea
 
Yang Min, Party secretary of Wori township, has tried to raise living standards through the use of local resources.
 
In 2014, a 3-meter-wide road was built for pedestrians.
 
Last year, the government provided more funds, which allowed the road to be widened to 5 meters, meaning it became suitable for large vehicles, which resulted in an upsurge in tourism.
 
Every household has seen its annual income rise by 2,000 yuan since the road was widened.
 
The township is just 35 km from Mount Siguniang, a renowned tourist spot in the east of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
 
Despite the close proximity, the poor roads around Wori made travel difficult, resulting in most visitors ignoring the township and paying most attention to the mountain.
 
However, after the road was sealed with asphalt, tourists began to flood into Wori to sample its distinctive Tibetan traditions and culture.
 
Nan Zhonghong has benefited from the influx of visitors.
 
The 74-year-old ethnic Tibetan used to make a living by growing apples in Wori, but after the road was sealed she found a new way to earn money by providing entertainment and traditional Tibetan food with butter tea.
 
"I am really happy that more people now come to visit us," she said. "The road has brought many new friends."
 
During the peak tourist season (usually July and August) around Mount Siguniang, Nan entertains about 30 tourists a day.
 
"Our income doubled to 50,000 yuan last year," she added.
 
Despite the improvements, life is still challenging for the people in this mountainous region.
 
One of the most important tasks is ensuring that the road remains open and is well-maintained, especially along the highest stretches.
 
"In winter, the road is usually covered by snow and mud, which makes it difficult to ensure it is clear," said Ma Quanfang, a 77-year-old in Wori.
 
"People come out to sweep away the snow, but the mud is much harder to remove," he added.
 
"Sometimes I have to spend four to five hours a day clearing away rocks and mud that have piled up."
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