Ningxia, Embracing Prosperity Through Agriculture And Tourism

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China’s Ningxia Province in its diversity faces a number of challenges, ranging from desert encroachment to alleviating poverty. As the Province combats these challenges, the locals become resourceful in a bid to drive tourism. BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes…

In Ningxia Province, deserts encroach and are being fought back on the edges of Maowsu Desert, Min’ning County in the South of Yinchuan City is now home to 44,000 villagers as the government seeks to give them a better life, and plants are grown to drive tourism. According to government reports, the Province has 11 special poverty stricken areas. In spite of these, Ningxia is relentless in its stride towards development.

One of five minority autonomous regions, Ningxia is a province with moderately deteriorating economy in its central and southern areas. And with development as keyword, in the south of Yinchuan, the Chinese government works to relocate villagers to a better accommodation and a better means of livelihood.

“Seven years ago this place was a desert, not suitable for planting crops. So companies were invited to invest and villagers were employed to work for companies which in turn aided alleviation of poverty. People who get rich first help the poor and gradually everyone gets out of poverty,” a guide at the village said, interpreting what an official at the Min’ning County was explaining during a tour.

The Chinese government’s aim was to get rid of all the poor people before 2020. Hai Guo Bao who is 60 years old, and originally from Shang Qing Shi Village, Kaicheng- Yanzhou District, arrived Min’ning County and in 2007 settled there. In the past Hai’s tribe lived in a mountainous area where the weather decided the course life takes. Coming to Ningxia changed his life.

Hai Guo Bao is one of the villagers relocated to Min'ing county through the Chinese government's efforts to alleviate poverty
Hai Guo Bao is one of the villagers relocated to Min’ing county through the Chinese government’s efforts to alleviate poverty

The Chinese government encouraged the people to come to Min’ning County, be beneficiaries of a subsidised living with income five times more than what they made for a living in the mountains, and better accommodation.

“The villagers here are very happy and content to move here. In the past in the mountainous area the kids will go miles to get to school. But here the schools are near their homes. The parents are happy to be here. When President Xi visited he said he was happy from the depth of his heart that the people here are living a good life. After listening to words of President Xi, we are happy and are independent to make progress with our lives,” he said smiling.

Hai was among the first batch to be relocated. The government had informed that 350,000 people would be moved to Ningxia Province. Hai was very excited and could not wait. The first thing he did upon arrival was to check if there was tap water and electricity, he recalled, as in his village water is hard to find.

According to information gathered by officials in the Province, the Chinese government assisted in building the houses. To buy an apartment in Min’ning County costs 12,000 Yuan. In the market it would be about 100,000 Yuan. However the Chinese government eased the burden for these villagers buying the houses and selling it at a subsidised rate of 12,000 Yuan.

Furthermore, the per capita disposable income of villagers grew from 500 Yuan in initial development period of the village to 10,361 in 2015. Most of the villagers work in companies established in the areas, some of which generate income through the local production of wine, while others work in the cities.

So far it has settled 1987 households or 10,515 villagers from 14 villages. A database for poor villagers has been opened with information of 70 households, 335 persons has been filed.

In another similar village in the same area, the Chinese government encouraged another Muslim family to leave their poor environments and reside in the new block of apartments developed to help alleviate poverty.  Another beneficiary of the subsidized housing and an accountant Li Jincai explained that he had moved to the residence three years ago and has not looked back ever since.

Asides poverty alleviation, Ningxia has also been able to attract visitors to its 9th China Flower Expo, equally referred to as the Ningxia Flower Expo. The ongoing programme  co-hosted by the State Forestry Bureau, China Flower Association and Ningxia People’s Government, is tagged ‘Blossoming New Silk Road, holding from September 1 to October 7, 2017 for the duration of 37 days. This has generated income for the Province in the tourism sector.

The Province has also been able to establish a Flower Park. With a total investment of about 450 million, it has been able to develop a PV industry and attract tourism to the area. The park was built for leisure and people visit during the weekends. It was established so as to drive the development of the agricultural industry. According to reports by officials of the Province, the park is capable of earning about 150,000 Yuan per day.

Profit earned through the agricultural industry is nearly 20 million Yuan every year. Tea is planted in this park, earthworms and extracts from scorpions are also used for medicinal purposes. For example the extracts from the earthworms are used to treat cerebral thrombosis. The flowers planted and grown are exported to countries such as Dubai and Kuwait. The power used on the site is generated through silicone plates used to collect solar energy which is then conveyed to the power factory.

Other tourist attraction includes Najiahu mosque Built in the Ming dynasty. It has almost 500 years history. It is constructed with bricks and wood. The prayer hall is made of wood and is now an important historical relic.

This is not all, the area boasts of, alluring desert scenery with an agricultural irrigation scene thrown in the mix to attract the curiosity of intellects, tourists, interested in fighting desertification. In the desert, with the Baijitan Sand-Control and Desertification Demonstration Zone, the Province is determined in its fight against desertification. It is 15 km away from the popular Yellow River. According to information gathered from a Ningxia Province official, in the past annual rainfall was at 150 to 200 millimetres, with the dryland causing soil erosion.

“From 1953 to present we have treated migratory sands. Desert retreated 30 km away from grass area. Our efforts prevent desertification and preserved the Yellow River. In the past there was no sign of life, no animals and so on. But after we changed desert to grasslands, some animals can be found. The method we use to prevent desertification is to make a straw grid in the sand and we put the grass seeds into straw grid and grow them. Each year there are three seasons to grow the seeds, spring, autumn and summer,” the official said.

As development continues to unfold in this far off unassuming Province, fondly called, ‘An Oasis in the hinterland,’ by the Chinese, and rightfully so, Ningxia relentlessly thrives on its rich culture and tourism. The ancient Yellow River civilization, Flower Park, Najiahu Mosque, mysterious Xixia culture and distinct Hui customs.

Ningxia’s Yinchuan city is equally attributed as having China’s fourth largest airport used to connect to Arab States, with the ‘China-Arab Portal Hub’ and ‘Regional Aviation Hub’ under construction. It is also reportedly the largest base for vocational education in western China.