Xinjiang farmers, herders benefit from relocation project

Bultijan Bekkhari is satisfied with his life now, which features a well-equipped house and stable jobs for him and his wife.

Six years ago, the poverty-stricken family lived in a shabby house in Sarjaz Village of Qapqal Xibe Autonomous County, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. As the village was tucked away deep in the mountainous area, the couple could hardly make ends meet in the barren grassland as live-stock herders.

In 2014, amid the efforts to alleviate poverty, the county started to relocate the village of 233 households, including 164 poor ones, from the remote area to the newly-built Uzunborak residential area in the county.

Paved roads, tap water, schools, and health centers - the county has invested more than 72 million yuan (about 10.5 million U.S. dollars) over the past six years in building the new resettlement site into a place with better living conditions for villagers.

"Life has undergone a tremendous change after relocation," said 56-year-old Bultijan Bekkhari. "We now have access to health centers, schools, and kindergartens."

Besides improved infrastructure and adequate medical and education resources, the local government has also helped relocated residents find jobs or start their own businesses.

"We have brought in agricultural product processing factories, established agricultural cooperatives, and organized technical training for them, ensuring they can prosper in their new homes," said Bawudun Memet, Party chief of Uzunborak.

After relocation, Bultijan Bekkhari, the former herder, opened a mutton shop and a barbeque stall at a local market. He is also one of the "chefs" of a restaurant in the village.

The restaurant, opened in May, was named as a "restaurant of 100 households" as its dishes are not cooked by restaurant chefs but by villagers at home. Any villager who is willing to contribute one specialty dish to the restaurant menu is responsible for cooking it at home. It currently has a menu of over 70 dishes.

"Once there is an order for my dish from the restaurant customers, my wife and I will cook it at home and then send it to the restaurant, just hundreds of meters away from my home," said Bultijan Bekkhari.

"I can earn about 6,000 yuan monthly just by this business. I never expected to earn money at home," he said.

The per capita income of Uzunborak, with a total population of 2,439 from different ethnic groups, was nearly 16,800 yuan last year, up by 50 percent over the period before the relocation.

The residential community mirrors China's poverty alleviation work.

To fulfill the mission of eradicating absolute poverty by 2020, China has been helping impoverished people move from mountainous regions and desert hinterlands to resettle in places with better natural environments and living conditions.

Xinjiang has set the goal of relocating a total of 169,400 people to new houses built with government subsidies in five years from 2016 to 2020.

"Now, I know how happy life is created, and I am grateful," Bultijan Bekkhari said.