By Vikash Kumar
Xinjiang is all over the news nowadays. Last month, the China International Publishing Group organized a trip to Xinjiang to get a glimpse into the lives of local people. More than 25 journalists from different media groups participated in this trip, including ten foreign journalists. I was also fortunate to get the opportunity to visit Xinjiang for the second time. I visited Urumqi, Kashgar, and Shihezi in 2012. This time, we were taken to Urumqi, Tacheng, and Yili Prefecture. Here, I will share three stories that will reflect the result of the Poverty alleviation program in China.
The first story is about a young man who graduated from the university and decided to return to his hometown. We were taken to a local Uyghur family to get a closer look into their life. There we met a handsome man whose name is Wuerkaixi. He graduated from a university in Urumqi, majoring in Computer Science in 2018. After graduation, while his friends were busy with interviews for jobs, he decided to return to his hometown. Some of his friends were surprised by his decision. Wuerkaixi was aware of the poverty alleviation policy of the government. He heard from some of his friends that the government provides a great deal of financial support to help lift people out of poverty.
Wuerkaixi thought it would be an excellent opportunity to return to his hometown and start his own business. After returning to his hometown, he shared his plan with family members. He wanted to turn his house into a homestay where a tourist can stay and enjoy the local cuisine and culture. However, to turn his plan into reality, he needed financial support, which his family could not provide. So, he shared his dream with the local authority. The local authority provided financial support to renovate his house. Wuerkaixi said, “We spent a total of 600,000 yuan on renovation and decoration of my house, of which the government-subsidized 200,000 yuan. It was a great help and support to me.” Some other hurdles were also removed by the particular policy of the local authority to promote tourism in Xinjiang. After some time, he turned his old dilapidated house into a beautiful homestay. Wuerkaixi is a computer software engineer, and he knew how to use social media and the internet to run his business. He started posting beautiful pictures of his homestay house. Wuerkaixi said, “We are charging only 100 yuan per person per night”. Those who come here ask for my WeChat and recommend more friends to visit my homestay. They feel satisfied with our hospitality. Wuerkaixi says, “During peak season, I can earn 5,000 yuan per day, we provide local cuisine, dance and music performances to the tourists. We can entertain more than 100 people a day during peak season.
Wuerkaixi said, “My current annual income from this homestay business is 200,000 yuan. We do business from April to September only. After September, life can be quite difficult because of the low temperature and snowfall.” At present, there are thirty homestays are in operation in Wuerkaixi’s village. Wuerkaixi said, “We are grateful to the government, the local authority, which built the infrastructure to attract tourists from inland. The government is also putting so much effort to promote tourism in this area.” Currently, more than 275 households are getting benefits from the tourist industry. The average annual income per family is approximately 100,000 yuan. When we asked about his future plans, he said “There more than ten people are benefiting from my homestay business. I want to expand it and involve more and more people and help them change their life”. Wuerkaixi is only 25 years old, and he has many innovative ideas to overhaul the situation of local families. He is also an inspiration for local youths.
The following story is about a village named Sigong village in the Huicheng County. This village is known as the land of Lavender flowers. Almost ten years ago, a businessman visited this place and found it perfect for growing Lavender and Shao Yao flower (a kind of herbal flower used for Chinese medicine). He approached the local authority and shared his plan. The local authority saw a ray of hope in his proposal, but it was not easy to convince the villagers. After so many discussions with the local villagers, they agreed to grow lavender and Shao Yao flower in their land.
Yin Sheng established a company named Tian Shan Hua Hai (Heaven of Flowers) and started growing lavender and Shao Yao flower on 7,000 acres of land. He created more than 4,000 jobs for local people. Local people were given training about the cultivation of Lavender and Shao Yao Flower. Those who work in the field earn a minimum of 3,000 yuan to 5,000 yuan per month. In one mu of land, they can produce 8 to 10 kilogram of Lavender oil, and they sell it for 500 yuan per kilogram. In this way, the villagers can make 3,000 yuan of profit from each mu of land. Apart from growing Lavender and Shaoyao flower, they have turned the lavender grassland into a tourist spot with the support of the local government. Every year minimum of 200 thousand tourists visits lavender grassland.
Tourists pour here for photo shoots, specially wedding ones. So, villagers have also developed catering and lodging facilities and are earning more money from the lavender business. A local said, “Lavender had changed their life. Before we could not grow any cereals because of the bad soil condition.” “We used to say this village is a stone village,” the company’s CEO said, “Now we say it is Lavender village.” The Secretary of the Party committee Li Zengjian noted, “Most of the lavender is exported to European countries. We are planning to expand the production of lavender, and for this, we have accumulated around 12,000 mu of land.
“Now, villagers come to us and ask to produce lavender in their field as well,” a local said, “After growing lavender, my life has changed, and I can send my kids for higher studies.” Now, Sikong villagers have beautiful smiles on their faces like Shaoyao flowers.
The last story is about Khazak minorities Qurman Ali from Nalati. Nalati is the most beautiful place in Yili prefecture. Those who visit here often say, “This is Heaven!” In recent years, Nalati has become one of the most popular tourist destinations for Chinese and foreign tourists. Nalati is known for its exceptional grasslands and White Mountains. It has become an attraction for those tourists who love to wander in a vast plain. Qurman is a resident of Nalati. With the growing popularity of Nalati, he thought of giving extra flavor to the tourists and started a homestay and Khazak marriage ceremony performances. He went to local authorities with this proposal. The local authority was impressed by his suggestion and supported him to establish some basic infrastructure. The provincial government spent nearly one million yuan to set up the Mongolian Yurt and other equipment.
Now, there are 46 people in Qurman’s Dance group. All the performers belong to Nalati County. They work from May till October. After October, the weather becomes severe for tourists. According to Qurman, the monthly profit of the company during peak season is about 100 thousand yuan. “Some people were surprised to hear this number,” Qurman said, “During peak season, we entertain almost 5,000 tourists daily. Our income mainly depends on catering and performance. We provide free Yurts to our guests.” Qurman is the manager of his company, and his company is called Arlang Cultural Media. “We are lucky to live here in Nalati because Nalati is a hot tourist destination, and it has provided many jobs for local people,” he said. “Our life has completely changed, and the local authority has also provided us with all kind of support.” Qurman and his team members started performing a new Khazak song, and tourists began dancing to the tune of songs.
Nalati is a beautiful place, so its people and cuisine. In Xinjiang, a song starts with the sentence, “Our Xinjiang is a beautiful place.” It is a wonder place!