eradicating rural povertyThe Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County lies in Guanxi in southern China. A majority of China’s Maonan ethnic group live here in rural villages. Once considered one of China’s most impoverished places, the poverty rate has now dropped to under 2% thanks to efforts by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). By using advanced farming techniques and relocating people to more arable areas, CAS has provided a model for eradicating rural poverty in China.

CAS Goals

Just over 100,000 Maonan live in China, most in small rural villages. About 70,000 of them live in Huanjiang. In the 1990s, Maonan farmers grew mostly corn and sweet potatoes, barely scraping by. The Chinese government identified Huanjiang as one of the most impoverished counties in China.

Maonan villages were located in mountainous, rocky regions known as karst landscapes. These areas are prone to desertification and are unsuitable for farming. CAS started the Kenfu Huanjiang Ecological Migration Pilot Zone in 1996. Its two goals were to relocate people to new villages in areas more suitable for agriculture and to improve the livelihoods of those that refused to relocate.

New Farming Techniques and Solutions

CAS introduced advanced farming techniques that better suit the area. An important change was the shift from farming to livestock. Huanjiang is highly flood-prone so CAS helped plant various grasses that can support animals. Zeng Fuping, a researcher with CAS who has been in Huanjiang since 1994, remarked that “the farmers were unsure initially and they questioned growing something that they could not eat.” However, the results speak for themselves. Income has increased tenfold since the introduction of 200 cattle into the region in 2001. Not only do the grasses support livestock but they also help prevent soil erosion. They have helped prevent widespread desertification, which is a common problem in karst landscapes. This serves as a model for maintaining arable land in karst areas across China.

Eradicating Rural Poverty

The speed of poverty reduction in Huanjiang has been staggering. In 1996, the average resident only earned the equivalent of $45 per year. That number rose to $835 in 2012 and $1600 in 2019.

In 2015, more than 14,000 Maonan people in Huanjiang lived below the Chinese poverty line of $345 per year. This accounted for around 22% of all Maonan peoples living in the county. By 2019, less than 1.5% of Maonan lived in poverty, amounting to 548 people. Due to the efforts of CAS, Huanjiang is no longer an area of extreme poverty in China.

In all of Guanxi, CAS has helped facilitate 400,000 people with relocation to new villages. This includes a majority of the Maonan community. Poverty percentages in Huanjiang have dropped to single digits. Livestock farming has reduced soil erosion and given locals much more disposable income. UNESCO dubbed this strategy the “Kenfu Model” and it is an important example of eradicating rural poverty in China.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in China
China has one of the largest elderly populations in the world. About 128 million people in China are over the age of 60. By the year 2050, there will be approximately 400 million people over the age of 60. Elderly poverty in China is a major concern, as 22.9% of the elderly population lives below the poverty line. This poses health concerns as well since there is a strong correlation between health and wealth. Of the elderly population, 26.2% of those living in poverty needed assistance with everyday activities compared to 22.7% of those above the poverty line. Fortunately, China has recognized a need to develop regulations and programs to help the elderly.

Caring for the Elderly

Elderly poverty in China is due in part to the struggles they face in caring for their own needs. Traditionally, the elderly would live with one of their children. It was the child’s duty to care for their elderly parents and make sure their needs were met. However, today children are more frequently moving out of their homes, leaving their parents to live alone. Family-based care is becoming impractical in China, as middle-aged children do not have the time to take care of their parents. More than 23% of China’s elderly population are now living alone.

The number of homes for the elderly is not enough to support the population. China currently has 289 pension homes that can only house 9,924 people. This only accounts for 0.6% of China’s population over 60. The rest of the population must fend for themselves when it comes to healthcare and housing.

Thankfully, regulations have been put in place to encourage private and foreign investment in homes for the elderly. The National Convention on Aging along with other departments has created a Five-Year Plan to increase access to healthcare and housing to the elderly population in an effort to solve elderly poverty in China.

China’s Five-Year-Plan

The first part of the plan includes allocating more beds for the elderly in hospitals. The number of beds in public hospitals and care agencies for the elderly will account for 50% of the total capacity by 2020. In addition, 35% of top-tier hospitals will have geriatric care departments. Healthcare and pension plans will be improved as well, with 90% of the population covered by basic pension insurance and 95% covered by basic health insurance.

Since 2019, wait times for the elderly to get into a nursing home has significantly decreased. Wait times before the plan could be as long as 20 years. Now, the elderly can be put on a waiting list and enter a private nursing home within one month.  The rise of private nursing homes in 2019 stemmed from multiple municipalities announcing nursing homes would no longer have to obtain permits. The government has also incentivized institutions to provide homes for the elderly. Community centers are granted a reduction in utilities and increased subsidies if they provide care to the elderly.

Hopefully, the plan will continue to alleviate the burden the elderly have of finding housing and care in China. Moving forward, it is essential that the government continues to prioritize the eradication of elderly poverty in China.

Rae Brozovich
Photo: Flickr

poverty in ChinaPoverty in China remains a pressing concern for the global community, as 252 million people—or 18% of China’s population—live on less than $2 per day. Another 22% of China’s population lives on less than $5.50 per day, especially in rural areas with struggling farming and fishing industries. Yet, many people don’t realize the extent of poverty in China.

Poverty in China

China remains as the second-largest economy in the world since the 2008 recession. There were still 5.5 million individuals living in extreme rural poverty in China by the end of 2019. This was even after an average of 13 million people were lifted out of poverty each year for the first five years of President Xi Jinping’s first term.

China’s mountainous terrain and varying natural conditions have caused issues like air pollution, water and soil problems and biodiversity loss. China’s natural landscape along with a lack of transport infrastructure makes poverty alleviation rather difficult.

However, many regions of China are trying to stimulate their economies by embracing regional cuisine. In Gansu and Qinghai Provinces, traditional noodles have stimulated the economy. In Guangdong, local chefs have run workshops to teach the poor how to cook and market their goods. Embracing traditional cuisine could help solve the poverty in China.

Noodle Initiative in Gansu Province

Gansu Province, located in North-Central China, created a noodle initiative in 2019. The aim was to alleviate poverty through the region’s specialty dish, Lanzhou noodles, prepared in a beef broth. Gansu authorities trained over 15,000 people from impoverished areas to make Lanzhou noodles from scratch, which would typically cost them $1.50. The participants then hopefully have a better chance to find employment at or open their own noodle shops. Similar initiatives in Gansu’s capital, Lanzhou and Beijing in 2018 led 90% of participants to find noodle-related jobs afterward, which helps fight poverty in China. These jobs typically earned the workers more than $590 a month.

The centuries-old noodle recipe calls for very precise noodle pulling. It can even take up to three years to fully master the skill. The Vocational and Technical College of Resources and Environment in Lanzhou helps many Lanzhou residents perfect their noodle-pulling craft. These new chefs also receive aid in fulfilling the necessary education requirements to spread their skills overseas.

The result is an estimated 4,000 Lanzhou noodle shops are currently open in Gansu province, which had the lowest GDP per capita of any Chinese province in 2017.

Hand-pulled noodles in Qinghai Province

Qinghai Province, located in China’s northwest on the high-altitude Tibetan Plateau, has seen drastic poverty reduction over the past decade. Previously plagued by poor infrastructure and lack of skilled labor, Qinghai has seen success with its “noodle” sector. The disposable income for farmers and herdsmen in the region nearly doubled from 2015 to 2018. Their poverty rates decreased from 24.6% to just 2.5% within that same time period.

Haidong, in northeast Qinghai, generated 15.4 billion yuan in business revenue. The source was from the city’s 578 noodle businesses, which employed 9,786 employees. One-third of the urban population and half of the families in rural areas are engaged in the city’s operating noodle businesses. The province has encouraged the noodle sector to continue hiring poorer residents. The city employs poverty reduction methods such as workshops, specific guidelines for growth and even a planned noodle business hub.

Benkanggou Village in Qinghai also helped eradicate poverty through the noodle industry. Over 110,000 of the villages’s 300,000 residents are engaged in the noodle industry. These numbers are thanks to the village’s 350 sessions of hand-pulled noodle training to over 13,000 families. Local authorities visited many poor households encouraging them to participate in the workshops. Thousands of more workers have been brought into the thriving industry since then.

River Snail Rice Noodles in Liuzhou

The city of Liuzhou, located in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is well known for its river snail rice noodles, or luosifen. Luosifen is a fusion of traditional ingredients from Han, Miao and Dong ethnic groups. It consists of rice noodles boiled with pickled bamboo shoots, dried turnip, fresh vegetables and peanuts in a spicy river snail soup. The dish was designated as part of Guangxi’s intangible cultural heritage in 2008. In the years since, the Liuzhou government has been boosting industries related to luosifen’s production. The region now brings in around six billion yuan annually.

Guangxi was listed as the province with the fourth lowest GDP per capita in 2018. Then in 2019, Guangxi lifted 1.25 million people out of poverty as well as de-listed 1,268 poor villages. This was a direct result of 337 workshops and 33 new poverty alleviation industrial parks. The luosifen industry played a major role in these poverty eradication efforts, as new factories have been created that specialize in instant luosifen, bamboo shoot processing, river snail collection and creative luosifen packaging.

Guangdong Cooking Initiatives

In Guangzhou in South China, an initiative called the Cantonese Cuisine Master program has tried to cultivate talent, promote cultural exchange and alleviate poverty in China through Cantonese cuisine training. The program has trained over 30,000 people so far and has mobilized over 96,000 people to secure employment and start their own businesses, lifting many out of poverty.

A Cantonese Cuisine Master Skills Competition in 2019 brought together many graduates of the program from 23 cities. Chefs prepared dishes like Chaoshan marinated goose, roasted crispy suckling pig, Portuguese-style chicken and flavored fish balls. Various Cantonese Cuisine Master programs and workshops have taken place in Hong Kong, Macao and other regions in southern China with the help of universities and enterprises. The program prepares chefs, many of whom come from rural and poverty-stricken areas, for the workforce. It also teaches the chefs about the concepts and ideas behind their cooking, which fosters cultural exchange and cooperation.

Since 2018, Guangdong has signed cooperation agreements with Tibet, Guangxi Zhuang, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions and Guizhou and Yunnan provinces to train more Cantonese chefs and help many escape poverty.

In Sichuan Province, 103 trainees from poverty-stricken counties—Meigu, Leibo and Jinyang—came to the Shunde District in Guangdong’s city of Foshan to receive free cooking lessons for two months at the Shunde Culinary Institute. They learned to cook traditional Cantonese dishes like stir-fried milk and stuffed mud carp as well as Sichuan-inspired dishes. After completing the program, trainees will have access to restaurant internships and full-time opportunities both in Shunde and in their hometowns. These sessions provided by Guangdong are said to increase monthly salaries by 1,000 to 2,000 yuan. Additionally, 56,000 students are currently enrolled in Cantonese cuisine courses at vocational schools across the province.

Noah Sheidlower
Photo: Flickr

Daylily/Poverty in China
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made substantial efforts to reduce poverty in China for the millions living without basic necessities. In 2015, President Jinping set the goal of eliminating poverty in China by 2020. There were 1.4 billion people in poverty at that time, defined as earning less than $1.10 a day, a lower benchmark than the World Bank poverty guideline of $1.90 a day. While some of his methods to alleviate rural poverty have been conventional, like increasing tourism and promoting produce production, in one Chinese district his tactic has been far from ordinary.

The Yunzhou District of China is located about 200 miles west of Beijing, in the Yanshan and Taihang mountains. Given its remote location, the cities in this district have dealt with high levels of poverty. However, in the last decade, farmers in this area have capitalized on the fecund growth of daylilies to alleviate poverty in the region, and in China more broadly.

Medicinal Qualities of Daylilies

Daylilies are an edible flower that people use in Chinese herbal medicine. According to studies, they may have detoxification properties, aid in reducing insomnia, lessen hemorrhoids and calm nerves. Daylilies in China belong to a heartier class of flowers since they can grow in a variety of soil conditions, and the flower itself comes in many colors. Its botanical name, Hemerocallis, translates to “beauty for a day,” as most daylilies will bloom in the morning and die by nightfall. However, the flower will stay in bloom for several weeks because each stem has over 12 flower buds.

Increase in Land for Daylilies

Though areas in the district, like Datong City and the Fangcheng new village, have been cultivating daylilies for over 600 years, the district recently increased the land on which it grows daylilies by 10 times. Now, millions of daylilies in China grow on 10,000 hectares or the equivalent of over 18,000 football fields.

President Xi Jinping’s Support for the Daylily Industry

In a recent trip to the district, President Jinping encouraged farmers and locals alike to continue developing the industry to reduce poverty in China. During his visit, President Jinping spoke to the country’s efforts to reach its goal of total poverty eradication by the end of 2020. So far, daylily production has helped lift over 1 million people out of poverty. In 2019, daylily production generated $9.17 million for the district. President Jinping remains steadfast in alleviating poverty in the country despite having only a few months before his deadline.

Revenue from daylilies in China may seem like an unusual product to reduce poverty in China by Western standards. However, according to Eastern culture, the flower is a cornerstone of the Chinese market and therefore a logical aspect of poverty alleviation. Even though the Yunzhou District has been cultivating the flower for over 600 years, it is comforting to know that the towns and cities in that district have utilized daylily production in the last 10 years to bring over a million individuals out of poverty.

Mimi Karabulut
Photo: Flickr