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Improved lives at 'roof of world' reflect inclusive growth

By Alexis Hooi | China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-09 07:13

Alexis Hooi [Photo/China Daily]

Like many of his fellow villagers two decades ago, a farmer named Kunsang, who is of the Monba ethnic group, subsisted on a small plot of land, growing corn, rapeseed, highland barley and other basic crops.

"We had no real income back then, just living day to day," the 37-year-old says.

The past hardships that Kunsang had to endure may seem hard to believe if you visit his two-story house of nine rooms in the village of Shelkar Monba in Nyingchi, Tibet autonomous region.

Government subsidies and support for rural development and improved infrastructure such as roads and a nearby airport have helped Kunsang's family of five earn about 150,000 yuan ($21,067) in annual income. They provide tourist lodging for up to 200 yuan a room, supplementing the income they get from renting out their farmland.

"When tourists visit and stay with us, they can see for themselves the improvements being made in Xizang," said Kunsang, using the name of the autonomous region in Mandarin. His wife is from the Tibetan ethnic group and his three daughters attend primary school and kindergarten.

As Kunsang shows, his family reflects the increasing improvement in the lives of residents at the "roof of the world", in line with nationwide efforts to build on shared, inclusive development.

Shelkar Monba village used to be remote and inaccessible with few resources, but transportation improvements in recent years have bettered its connections to Nyingchi airport and the main Gangpai Highway. With the acceleration of cultural tourism, ethnic handicraft businesses and other mainstays of the local economy, villagers have reported increased incomes and better living standards.

The vibrant village includes 82 households of 338 farmers and herdsmen covering more than 52 hectares of arable land. A per capita income of 36,000 yuan was registered last year.

Local entrepreneur Dodeng also exemplifies the inroads being made in rural development. In 2015, he set up a cooperative together with four other villagers to preserve and promote the traditional Tibetan paper processing industry, in which he has nearly 20 years of experience.

Tibetan paper products are mainly made from the thick, fibrous root of the flowering plant Stellera chamaejasme L. and other highland flora by cooking, pressing, drying and other ethnic craftsmanship techniques, which allow them to be stored for long periods of time and suitable for displaying the elaborate and colorful patterns of traditional artwork and script.

Within three years, with financial support, incentives and expertise from the local authorities, Dodeng invested more than 800,000 yuan to grow his operations into a comprehensive facility for paper production and wood processing, expanding these into traditional incense making and tourism.

The village's papermaking skills and folk customs have since become a main draw for tourists, helping to raise the average annual income of at least 69 households by over 20,000 yuan in 2019 alone.

Dodeng's cooperative has also reported sales of more than 4 million yuan from paper products like lanterns, notebooks and traditional Tibetan Buddhist paintings, while sales of incense, prayer beads, carvings and other handicrafts have generated about 400,000 yuan.

Kunsang says that with the local economy, education and the provision of adequate healthcare services like basic medical insurance, life in the community can only get better.

"We are able to continue our traditions and customs, living well and in harmony with each other," he says.

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