Huang examines a plantation of yellow peaches in 2011. (XINHUA)
When Huang Shiyan, then 48, took office as Party secretary of Yanling county, Central China’s Hunan province, in 2011, the county located deep in the mountains was mired in dire poverty with an average annual income of only 2,970 yuan ($453).
He took food as he visited poor villages and people. He labored alongside them and talked with them, and realized that, due to the isolated location, lack of resources and outdated industrial development, the county was struggling to bring in an income. As a result, he proposed to develop green agriculture, the ecological industry and tourism to alleviate poverty, according to Xinhua News Agency.
After eight years, 54 impoverished villages in the county were all lifted out of poverty, according to People’s Daily, but the devoted Party secretary died of a heart attack after participating in a meeting to talk about poverty alleviation work in 2019. He was conferred as a poverty alleviation model by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development in October.
When Huang checked the actual situation and conditions in the homes of villagers in 2011, he found many of them were growing yellow peaches, even though it didn’t bring them much economic benefit. The agriculture major was surprised to find that many crops would not grow in the county but yellow peaches were suited to the particular soil and tasted good, so he decided to “turn the sparsely grown fruit into a commodity to help lift people out of poverty”.
He then led a design and development plan to grow yellow peaches, and established an office in the local government to manage development of the business.
He encouraged people to grow the fruit, promoted advanced cultivation techniques, organized activities to sell the fruit and promoted online sales. He named the local fruit Yanling yellow peach, and made it a brand by applying for it to be listed as a protected product under China's national geographical indications in 2016.
“Everyone in Yanling knows secretary Huang paid a lot of attention to the yellow peach business. The 62,824 peach trees in our village have enabled nearly all households to build new houses and buy new cars,” says Zhu Jinghua, Party secretary of Xinshan village, Yanling county, where more than 40 poor households were lifted out of poverty through the peach business.
According to Tan Zhongcheng, secretary of Yanling’s yellow peach association, “the county now has an area of 5,933 hectares growing yellow peaches. The general yield reaches 51,800 metric tons, and the 34,200 peach farmers enjoy an average income increase of 2,976 yuan this year.”
In 2014, 14,900 people in Yanling still lived in houses that had potential safety problems. It would cost 600 million yuan to solve them, but local government revenue was only 700 million yuan that year.
“How can people shake off poverty without living in a safe house? Even if we give up the last shot in the locker, we should enable people to live in safe houses,” says Huang firmly.
As a result, he tried all possible means to raise funds and cut down expenditure in government officials’ daily work. Finally, 1,250 households were relocated to new houses, and the dilapidated houses of more than 11,000 households were renovated.
“I moved from deep in the mountain to a new resettlement area in 2017. Secretary Huang visited my house 19 times, and recommended jobs for my family members. He cared for us more than our relatives,” says Zhang Lianjun from Shangcun village, Yanling county.
Led by Huang, the poverty alleviation work in Yanling achieved great progress. Altogether 7,224 households, 24,056 people have shaken off poverty, and local poverty incidence has dropped from 19.5 percent to 0.45 percent.
After Huang’s death, an old yellow peach tree which inspired him to develop peach business in Yanling died as well, says villager Chen Yuangao, owner of the tree. “Although the tree died, infrastructure improved when he worked here. The road he built still remains. And the orchard of yellow peaches has been enlarged. His efforts helped us to live a better life, and we will remember him,” says Chen.
Source: China Daily