A card hanging on a wall of Buvjannat Abdurahman’s home is a testament to the remarkable changes that have taken place in her family’s life.
Designed for registered poverty-stricken households, it records the monthly incomes of each member of the family of four, the sources of income and whether they have access to basic services such as safe drinking water, compulsory education and medical insurance.
Buvjannat, 58, lives in the Hejia New Village residential complex in Pishan county, Hotan, on the southern edge of the Taklimakan Desert in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
The house, decorated in typical Uygur style with bright carpets covering the floor and delicate embroidery hanging on the wall, seems no different from apartments commonly seen in other parts of Xinjiang. But for Buvjannat’s family, it marks a huge leap from their old life.
They used to live in a humble adobe hut built with mud and tamarisk.
“When it rained, the roof was leaky,” Buvjannat recalled. “And when I burned wood to make a fire in the kitchen, the house was full of smoke.”
In early 2018, the family moved from their old house in Saybak village, Kokterek township, to the new apartment. The house was provided by the local government free of charge.
“In the new house, I use natural gas to cook and no longer choke in smoke while cooking,” Buvjannat said.
The new community is home to 597 impoverished households, or 2,833 people, from villages scattered across the county. Some relocated because of poor housing and some because they couldn’t earn a living.
The resettlement program not only provided new houses for the poverty-stricken families, but also ensured they have stable incomes.
Buvjannat’s family used to live on the meager income from the cultivation of several walnut trees and some wheat. They lived under the national poverty line-per capita income of 2,300 yuan ($340) a year.
She now earns 1,500 yuan a month working as a sanitation worker in the residential community. Her husband runs a barbershop in the county seat.
The family was also allocated a sheep pen and a greenhouse close to their home. They leased the management rights of the properties to an enterprise designated by the local government to manage them in a centralized manner. The family gets 2,000 yuan a year in return.
A view of an apartment building in the Hejia New Village in Pishan county. [Photo by Ma Chi/chinadaily.com.cn]
Every relocated household in Hejia New Village receives a sheep pen and greenhouse. They can lease them on a voluntary basis to three enterprises designated to run them and also work for the companies to earn wages.
Nearly all the residents chose to lease their sheep pens and greenhouses to the enterprises, and 486 of them are employed by the companies, Yang Jing, Party chief of the new village, said.
More than 600 greenhouses cultivating vegetables and fruits and more than 1,000 sheep pens have been built in the village.
“After the residents master the skills needed to manage the sheep pens and greenhouses-say, in two or three years-they could choose to take back the management rights and run the business on their own,” Yang said.
Buvjannat said she used to worry about her daughter getting enrolled by a college because the family would have been unable to pay for her tuition.
“Now, with a stable income, I no longer worry about it,” she said.
Her daughter, Marhaba Ablimit, is studying at a college in Yili Kazak autonomous prefecture. Buvjannat said she sends her 1,000 yuan a month to cover her living expenses.
Abdukadir Memhetniyaz, 34, is Buvjannat’s neighbor. His family of four used to live in Pishan’s Qiaoda township. On a windy day, their old home would be full of sand and dust.
The family had no land, and lived on the income from several walnut trees growing in their yard and doing odd jobs such as picking cotton. His wife stayed at home to take care of their toddler son.
He now works for Zhijiang Agriculture, irrigating greenhouses and doing electrical maintenance. His wife, freed from taking care of their son because the boy now goes to a nearby kindergarten, also works for the company, growing seedlings and picking vegetables. Between them, they earn 5,500 yuan a month.
A resident works at a greenhouse at the Hejia New Village. [Photo by Ma Chi/chinadaily.com.cn]
The relocation has also changed the villagers’ mindset.
Abdukadir said he used to spend the money he earned immediately after receiving it. Now, with a stable job, he’s started to learn to manage the money and plan for the future.
He said his parents paid little attention to his education when he was a child. But he now believes that a good education is necessary to find a good job and he wants to provide his children with that.
Abdukadir said he and his wife plan to run the vegetable greenhouse themselves in the future, adding that they have already learned skills such as how to care for pepper, eggplant and tomato seedlings.
In that way, they could earn more money and further improve their lives, he said.
Yang, the Party secretary, said a family running a greenhouse itself could earn an extra 8,000 yuan a year compared with working for an enterprise.
“After a family takes back the management rights of the greenhouse, they could give their produce to the enterprises, which would help them sell it,” he said.
The farmers would still be able to enjoy technical services provided by the enterprises related to seedlings and pesticides, he said.
“In this way, we will ensure they have stable incomes in the long run,” Yang said.