By Hendy Yuniarto
Despite being rich in culture and natural beauty, poverty in Xinjiang has been an enormous challenge for this harmonious multiethnic society. In recent years, Chinese government has tried to overcome this problem with various poverty alleviation programs. The local government and the community have worked hard to utilize a sustainable way to improve the local economy. I witnessed how people of different ethnicities worked hard to improve their living standards. During our two visits to the flower farm situated in the foothills of Mount Tianshan and the Uyghur cultural village of Yangbulake in Yining, I had the chance to learn about targeted poverty alleviation efforts in the region.
The Sea of Flowers in Mount Tianshan contains various types of locally-grown flowers and fruits in the Yining region. It has 7,000 hectares of fields that were once barren soil, are now planted with various flowers such as lavender and peonies. Besides these two types of flowers, they also grow grapes and apples.
As many as 2,000 people from different ethnicities work in this agricultural field. To help agriculture grow and have maximum yields, local governments also provide subsidies as a core component of poverty eradication policies in the region.
Starting in 2016, this farm had to wait four years before it finally turned a profit. Peony flowers are used as medicinal ingredients, while lavender is processed into oil for various purposes, such as aromatherapy, cosmetics, medicine, etc.
The agricultural field attracted many visitors to take pictures among the beautiful flower beds, and the ice-capped Mount Tianshan in the background made it more breathtaking.
Lavender flowers are grown not only for the local Chinese market but also for the export markets, especially Europe. With rail access connecting Xinjiang with the plains of Central Asia and Europe, the volume of export and trade has been growing at a spectacular rate, far faster than before.
Flower farming has proven to be effective in improving economic opportunities and social conditions of local people. Ten years ago, people in this area used to live on their meager earnings, but with the help of the local community and the government, all their hard work finally paid off and they managed to build this agricultural business to help increase their income.
Ethnic diversity has never been an obstacle for residents to work together and build these agriculture businesses for future prosperity. Thanks to the preservation of the multiethnic community in Xinjiang, peony and lavender fields became famous tourist attractions that visitors shouldn’t miss when visiting the city of Yining in Xinjiang.
The second place is Yangbulake Village in Yining. This village historically has a lively traditional Uyghur culture atmosphere. Over the past three years, this village has been transformed into a traditional tourism village by young people who have returned after pursuing university education in the city.
A Uyghur man named Wuerkaixi enthusiastically explained how to develop tourism industry that focuses on Uyghur traditions and culture. Yangbulake Village is home to many Uyghur people and deserves to be highlighted and promoted to the broader community.
Yangbulake Village was carefully renovated to retain all its traditional features, while the original architectural style of the village remained completely intact. Every house in the village warmly welcomes visitors, as they always think that people who come to visit have travelled a long way and deserve to be treated well.
Visitors were amazed by the Uyghur atmosphere at this villager’s house, ranging from traditional clothing, architecture, handicrafts, dances, songs, and culinary delights.
We can’t go without mentioning Naan bread, lamb skewer, milk tea, dried fruit, yogurt, and other typical Uyghur food. Xinjiang cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in China. In many cities, you can easily find a Xinjiang restaurant.
The houses in the tourist village of Yangbulake were also developed as homestays, thus enriching the cultural industry even more. Each house can accommodate up to six people.
Yangbulake Village takes advantage of its geographical features and cultural heritage to develop tourism and improve the local economy. All these benefits enhanced the direct economic impact of tourism and helped the local community expand their earnings.
In Yangbulake village, about 30 households with 90 people directly participate in the rural tourism industry. More than 30,000 tourists visit this village every year. The average household income has increased to more than 100,000 yuan annually.
Xinjinag’s stability and development is a result of the community’s hard work and strong will, which helped promote their authentic culture to the broader community. Now, everyone can obtain a deeper understanding of the Uyghur culture and the warmth of the Uyghur people in Yangbulake village.
The government and people of Xinjiang are working hard to eradicate poverty by taking advantage of the region’s natural beauty. They managed to preserve Xinjiang’s nature and culture by simply adopting more sustainable methods.