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Cotton farmer sets sights on tourism

China Daily | Updated: 2020-10-30 07:59

URUMQI-Kulesi Rehim, 54, spent nearly half of his life growing cotton in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. However, locals regard him as a businessman.

"They call me baiha, which is similar to the pronunciation of department store," says Kulesi, who is a resident of southern Xinjiang's cotton hub, Yuli county.

Kulesi's nickname stems from his experience of working as a shop assistant at a department store after graduating from a vocational school in the late 1980s when China's reform and opening-up drive started to sweep across the country. Through hard work and having a keen sense of emerging trends, he soon rose to become the store's director.

Yuli started to promote reclaiming wasteland to boost agricultural production in the 1990s, and Kulesi was one of the first locals to heed the call. He started in 1995 with about 3 hectares of barren fields to plant cotton. In 2000, Kulesi became a fulltime cotton farmer as the local government encouraged development in the private sector.

His cotton fields kept growing in the area, thanks to his devotion and a pioneering spirit to try the latest technologies. In 2006, Kulesi managed 46.7 hectares of cotton fields and became the first cotton farmer in Yuli to try drip irrigation. The efficiency of the technology further expanded his cotton fields.

He led local farmers in using machines to harvest cotton in 2016 and using agricultural drones to spray pesticides and defoliants in 2019. Now, Kulesi owns over 86 hectares of cotton fields.

Twenty-five years of cotton growing has brought Kulesi a prosperous life. He built a well-furnished house of more than 200 square meters.

However, Kulesi's career focus has shifted away from the cotton fields. In 2018, he contracted with a professional cotton farmer to manage his cotton fields and made a foray into the tourism sector.

Yuli, which is located near China's largest desert and features the unique Lop Nur culture, has seen robust tourism growth in recent years. The county received nearly 2.15 million visitors and raked in 375 million yuan ($56 million) in 2019, increasing by about 53 percent and 89 percent year-on-year, respectively.

Kulesi has invested about 6 million yuan to build a folk-custom garden in the county to offer catering and accommodation for visitors.

"Hard work pays off, and most importantly, you have to keep pace with the times to seize emerging opportunities," he says.


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