On desert edge, villagers dig way out of poverty

Abudukrim Tumaniyaz has herded animals on the edge of the Taklimakan Desert in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region since he was a boy, but with only a dozen sheep he could never properly support his family.

However, life changed for the 30-year-old in 2014 when a poverty alleviation work team visited his hometown of Yvrvktax, a poverty-stricken village in Qira county in southern Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture. They told him his herding experience was valued, and last year they helped Abudukrim set up a farming cooperative and expand the scale of livestock breeding.

With the team's support, his livestock shed soon had water and electricity and he was trained in animal husbandry.

As a result, the lambing rate in his cooperative increased to 90 percent, compared with only 70 percent previously.

Abudukrim now owns more than 500 sheep and 30 cattle, and earned 50,000 yuan ($7,060) last year. He also plans to raise camels in his cooperative and hire a few more villagers to handle sales.

"I want to make the cooperative bigger and provide more jobs for the locals," he said.

Abudukrim's fellow villager Separ Matiruz, 38, had been working across Xinjiang as a construction worker for more than 10 years. His income was too unstable to support his family and he never envisaged a secure financial future in his village.

He returned to Yvrvktax with his wife when the local government launched a project to build earthquake-resistant houses for the residents.

Separ organized impoverished families in the village to tender for the construction of the houses. To his surprise, the work team encouraged him to establish a construction company and gave him step-by-step guidance on completing the registration and obtaining his business license.

Last year, Separ's company had 18 employees and his monthly income was more than 5,000 yuan. In busy times he can earn up to 10,000 yuan a month.

"In the future, I want to build houses not only in my village, but also in other villages and in the county," he said with a confident smile.

Abulitari Tohet, a 52-year-old villager, also wanted to escape poverty without leaving Yvrvktax.

The work team members visited Abulitari's home and saw he had a flourishing fruit orchard and a beautiful grass field near his house. They suggested he run a guesthouse.

However, Abulitari dismissed the idea after calculating the costs involved. He was afraid that he would be worse off financially.

The team members, understanding his fears, applied to a poverty reduction program on his behalf and he soon received startup funding. Last year, he used the funds to raise chickens and ducks and dug a fish pond next to his orchard. He also built three guest yurts, a steel-framed shop and erected soccer goal posts on the field for guests to enjoy.

In summer, guests had to book his farmhouse a day or two in advance as the venture was so popular. By the end of last year, "agritainment" had earned him more than 30,000 yuan. He is planning to hire two people this year to expand the tourism capacity of his farmhouse.

In recent years, poverty alleviation work team members have been stationed in Yvrvktax on a rotation basis. They have stepped up efforts to implement Xinjiang's targeted poverty alleviation policies and tailored measures for poor households to shake off poverty.