Ningxia residents begin the long climb out of poverty
Updated: 2012-12-19 08:37
By Peng Yining (China Daily)
Microfinance is slowly beginning to change the lives of people living in one of China's harshest environments, as Peng Yining reports from the mountainous Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
Zhang Yanqin and her poverty-stricken family are used to relying on charity. To show their gratitude, Zhang has pasted donation receipts on the wall of their cave dwelling in a remote village in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
Most of the papers are yellowed with age. The latest, sealed in a plastic cover, gleamed white against the brown dirt wall, detailing 500 yuan ($80) donated by a person called Liu Ning in 2011.
An elderly farmer herds sheep in Xiji county in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region. Most of the loans obtained from microfinancing institutions are used to help people engage in breeding livestock. Photos by Kuang Linhua / China Daily
Labels on an old wooden table and a chair, the family's only furniture, proclaimed that they were originally the property of a local factory. Stamps in the children's picture books and on their school bags indicated that a kind-hearted person donated them to the family earlier this year.
"But we need more than charity," said the 36-year-old farmer. "We need to make a living for ourselves."
The desire to make a better living doesn't mean the family is ungrateful to those who have helped them. They wouldn't have displayed the documents, otherwise, she said.
Cultivation of corn and buckwheat brings the family of eight an annual income of less than 2,000 yuan, below the government's official poverty line of 2,300 yuan.
In 2012, Zhang and her husband obtained a loan of 20,000 yuan and bought 30 sheep. With help from the village administration, they learned about herding and now hope the animals will bring in an extra 20,000 yuan at the end of the year.
"The donations won't last long. We need skills or ideas for a small business, anything that will help us get out of poverty," she said.
More than 2.5 million people, 41 percent of Ningxia's population, live in the region's southern mountainous area, where the extreme conditions resulted in the United Nations listing it as one of the world's most inhospitable places in the 1970s. More than 1 million people officially live in poverty and require a considerable amount of aid every year.
Students line up for lunch at Mahuangshan elementary school in Ningxia's Yanchi county.