Eda Menpa's major shift (II): From Herders to Shareholders

Editor's note: The Sichuan-Tibet Plateau, a beautiful region that reaches toward the heavens, is a place showered with blue skies, covered in white clouds, and dotted with snow-covered mountains, but recently, something truly remarkable has been materializing among the households that call this place home. A groundbreaking historic change has been reshaping the land and its people. From today on, we will publish a series of stories to tell you those changes. 

If someone were to have told Rize a year ago that he would become a shareholder of a local business, he would have laughed at the very idea. "Last year, my family was still the poorest in the village, but ever since the poverty-relief project was launched here, things have changed dramatically," he emotionally declares. "My fellow villagers and I are now shareholders of the local business, and it won’t be long before we rise above the poverty line!"

The villagers of Eda Menpa are scattered across a remote mountain-valley grassland, and the opportunities to earn income are very few and far between. To be better off as a society, locals had to look for a hand up to get out of their critical situation and eventually adopted initiatives presented through targeted poverty-relief projects.

In September 2015, the United Front Work Department of Sichuan Province sent Jin Zhong as the 'first party secretary" to reside in Eda Menpa Village, where he was stationed as a full-time employee. To start things off, he conducted an investigative survey of the village’s financial situation and obtained basic data as the foundation for formulating future strategies. His first suggestion was to form a special local team consisting of the village party secretary, a township-level cadre, and also village committee members. Their task would be to conduct a more in-depth investigation that focused on the actual poverty situation, root causes, advantages for development, and the willingness of locals to escape, and individual plans were worked out for every single villager as a result. "During the investigation, they found a number of unused resources," Jing says. "Even though the village had the advantage of a national road running right by it, the fact was that there had been little to no profit seen at all from it before we came in. To make matters worse, two charming snow-peaked mountains are very close by, but the tourism industry had yet to make its mark there. Not even the comfortable new houses were inhabited by a single local!"

Eda Menpa is located in the Zhexi area of Tardo, where there is a rich amount of potential resources that could be used to attract tourism. It is also the center of the Gonggya biological river valley, a place referred to as the "photographer's paradise". Being 10 or so kilometers (around 6.2 miles) away from National Road No. 318, the people there had remained nomadic, meaning that there was a lot of catching up to do. The youth among the families would often leave and search for temporary work in other areas in order to send at least a bit of funding back to their loved ones, but Jing Zhong believed that the new approach of developing a tourist venue would get them out of their dire situation a lot more quickly, not to mention the fact that it would be a lot more convenient for those who wanted to stay near home.

The idea was immediately taken up by the Sichuan Province United Front Work Department as well as the Tardo City government. Jing then put the plan into action by visiting every single corner of the village and encouraging local herders to work together with experts invited from outside the area. Using the plans supplied by Garze Autonomous Prefecture regarding its set of rules regarding the tourism industry, the team developed a special five-year plan for the village with the main intent of bringing the locals out of poverty.

Today, the configuration and implementation of the five-year plan has certainly done a lot to promote the village and boost the local enterprise, Tardo Muya Zeduo, as a tourist attraction for people wanting to know more about Muya culture. Now, after having undergone several negotiations between other companies, villagers, and village committees, it has been decided that 300 million yuan will be invested toward building a business mechanism, whereby the village will be expected to share its natural resources, including land, lifestock, pastures, houses, and public facilities, with locals based on a collective need. "It is estimated that in five years, we could have a 40-50 million yuan profit, with distribution between the company and village being at an 8:2 ratio, but even if there is no profit, there will always be an 850-thousand-yuan basic bonus payment the company will continue to shell out to the village," Jing says. "This means that villagers will still be able to enjoy their bonuses from the village collective and still work for the company if they want to."

Rize, although he is not able to do any labor due to a leg injury, says that he is able to provide the new local industry with his land and house. "Through this mechanism, we are able to receive a 2,000-yuan increase per person per year," he says. Altogether, he and his family earn approximately 70 thousand due to their participation in various programs, such as the village collective, family insurance, labor provisions earned by his daughter, and further income from grazing domestic animals. 

The Chinese version of this story is written by Zhuhong & Zhouyu and translated into English by Huang Wenjuan. And the story is sourced from the United Front Work Deparment of the Communist Party of China (CPC)Sichuan Provincial Committee.