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On province's birthday, poverty reduction captures the spotlight

China Daily,April 16, 2018 Adjust font size:

Tourists harvest sweet potatoes in the town of Qiaotou in Chengmai, Hainan province, last year. Yuan Chen / For China Daily

Hainan province is taking a series of steps to help eradicate poverty by 2020, in line with the central government's poverty reduction plan.

In the past five years, the local government helped 617,000 people got out of poverty, and another 83,000 people will follow suit this year.

Of Hainan's total population of 9.3 million, about 477,000 remained below the poverty line in 2017. The national poverty line is an annual income of 2,300 yuan ($366) per capita.

Hainan, China's youngest province, celebrates its 30th anniversary on Friday.

Many measures targeting poverty have helped to improve residents' incomes, such as the development of high-efficiency agriculture and highlighting rural tourism, which yielded better jobs, new farm produce and markets for many once-poor farmers. It beautified many villages as well.

In 2017, about 2.84 billion yuan was poured into the agriculture, tourism, healthcare, education and transportation systems with the goal of reducing poverty on the island.

Shatu, once an impoverished village in the island's northwestern area, has now become a village of sweet potatoes with some global stature.

Farmers in the village used to grow low-productivity rice and other crops, earning incomes of less than 3,000 yuan a year in 2008, before they were encouraged by the local government to grow sweet potatoes instead.

The government organized training courses for the farmers to help standardize potato growing, conducted branding promotion activities and set up an online sales platform and a sweet potato research institute that is developing quality potato seedlings.

"The efforts have helped to increase the annual income per household to 100,000 yuan, jumping 33 times from a decade ago," said Yang Yingchun, a Shatu resident. He expects a harvest worth 150,000 yuan from his 1-hectare sweet potato farm this year.

Sweet potatoes have helped reduce the number of impoverished households to 36 in 2016 from 1,390 in 2007 in Qiaotou, which has 29,000 residents.

While in the central areas of the island, where a number of national-level poverty-stricken counties and cities are located - such as Baisha, Baoting and Wuzhishan - the "poverty reduction plus tourism" model is bringing benefits.

Shijin village in Baoting Li autonomous county on the island's eastern side, has developed rural tourism by tapping the spectacular views of its lush green mountains, as well as the colorful culture of Li ethnic people, the original residents of Hainan. The village's efforts have raised per capita income from 2,000 yuan about 10 years ago to more than 13,000 yuan.

Sanya, the resort city at the island's southern tip, has established a smart database management system including the situation of each impoverished household - income, health condition, family members and employment - can be followed by scanning a code in front of the household name.

"With the system, we can provide targeted measures to help each family rise out of poverty," said Zhang Lei, an official in charge of local poverty alleviation.

Hainan has also invited agricultural experts to the villages to give lectures and provide training for farmers. It has organized night school TV programs since 2016, with topics covering new farming techniques, poverty alleviation policy explanations, industry development analyses, building confidence and benefiting thousands.

Regular arrangements are made for farmers to visit other areas and broaden their vision.

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