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Forestry Development Lifts 1.11 Mln Farmers Out of Poverty

After 20 years of poverty relief efforts through forestry development, more than 1.11 million farmers in the mountainous areas of Guizhou Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region have shook off poverty, a senior official from the State Forestry Administration said recently.

Li Yucai, vice administrator of the administration, said at a conference held in Guizhou Province on December 6 that the construction of key forestry projects is the biggest poverty-relief program of the country. The Jiuwan mountainous area has been included in the national plan for the key forestry project. Through forestry development supported by the central government, great achievements in poverty relief have been made in this area, including better ecological conservation, rapid development of the forestry industry, and more forestry infrastructures.

With the goal of providing adequate food and clothing to the poor and ensuring that those who have lifted off poverty are now living above the poverty line, the poverty relief work set its next step through forestry development. This project displays the advantage of mountainous areas and combines with other key forestry projects already implemented. The project goals are to increase the income of the poor, to further develop the productive force, to ensure the development of ecological conservation and production in tandem, to boost the production of forestry, to improve the independent abilities of poverty-stricken areas and people, and to help farmers get rid of poverty.

Li pointed out that, based on the local economy, resources and industrial advantage, the government will further increase their investment in helping the poverty-stricken areas plan and develop green enterprises. These industries include economically viable forests, rapid-growing and high-yield forests, encouraging seedlings cultivation and ecological tourism, as well as some other related infrastructures for future construction. All this will help develop a market holding good prospects, minimum investment, quick profits and more benefits. With the start up funds, good projects, and necessary information and technology a market-oriented, self-accumulated and developed mechanism and a model with constant reproduction will be implemented in poverty-stricken areas.

In 1987, as one of the first batch of 10 organizations under the central government that are expected to help poverty-stricken cities or counties, the State Forestery Ministry was responsible for the poverty reduction of 6 prefectures or 19 counties, covering 265 townships and 19 state-owned forestry centers. 5.4 million people would benefit; 72.4 percent of them belong to minority ethnic groups.

By far, nearly 1.5 billion yuan (US$203,56 million) in total has been invested in forestry development and poverty relief, and was mainly used for the projects to assist in protection of natural forests, turning farm land back into forest, supporting the Pearl River bank forest, promoting fast-growing and high-yielding forest bases and natural reserves. Other key projects of forestry revolve around seedling support, technical support, forest fire prevention, diseases and insect pests prevention and treatment, and forest police. In addition, the special fund for agricultural comprehensive exploration allocated by the central finance committee also helped in the construction of economically viable forests, flower greenhouses and bamboo forest bases.

In the past 20 years, 19 counties have completed reforestation of 20.23 million mu, creating forest conservancies totaling 13.52 million mu. The project has opened up new forest lands consisting of 23.26 million mu, causing the forest coverage rate to increase from 40.5 percent in 1985 to 64.47 percent as of last year, up nearly 24 percent. The forestry industry thus has experienced impressive development. By 2007 the total annual output value of the 19 counties had reached 3.22 billion yuan (US$436,97 million), or 16.43 times of that in 1987.

Helped by forestry development, these 19 counties have dug their way out of a forestry resources crisis and economic crisis to some extent. By the end of last year, the average net income of farmers in this area had climbed up from 240 yuan (US$32.57) in 1987 to about 2,000 yuan (US$271.41). Concerning this increase, ranging from 30 percent to as high as 70 percent, of the increase resulted from forestry profits. In the past 20 years, the absolute poverty population decreased from 1,950,400 in 1987 to 837,600, a reduction of 1,112,800 people, or 57 percent.

In the last 20 years, the State Forestry Administration has made active efforts in poverty relief by providing talented people, technology and know-how. One hundred and sixty officials from the administration were sent to poverty-stricken areas to work at local posts. Eighteen training classes in forestry technology and management were held. Moreover, a vocational school of forestry was build in Jiuwan mountainous area as well as 5 prefecture-level training centers, 6 Project Hope primary schools and 19 county-level forestry technological promotion centers. The Administration also organized many donation activities, resulting in a collection of 600,000 yuan (US$81,422.17). The money assisted 500 deprived children returning to the school, and sent a medical team to Jiuwan mountainous area to provide free medical services, medical equipment and medicine to the local farmers.

(China Development Gateway by Xu Lin December 20, 2007)

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