Tsering Tsamgyi, 53, works at a nursery base, part of a poverty alleviation project in Xuecun village, Nedong, Lhokha city, Tibet autonomous region. (Photo/China Daily)
The autonomous region relies on localized policies and environmental protection to boost wages.
This year, more than 140,000 people will be lifted out of poverty in 1,705 villages in 25 districts and counties in the Tibet autonomous region, official projections suggest.
Meanwhile, a work report released by the Tibet Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation in November said relocation and resettlement programs in the region will be completed by the end of the year.
The achievements will build on the region's success in the past two years, such as the eradication of poverty in five key areas: Kharub, Chamdo city; Chengguan district, Lhasa; Dragyib, Nyingchi; Nedong, Lhokha; and Dromo, Xigaze.
They were among 26 places nationwide where incomes surpassed the official poverty line of 3,000 yuan ($466) last year, according to the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.
"We have won our first battle against poverty thanks to government assistance," said Norbu Dondrub, vice-chairman of the Tibet autonomous region.
"The success we have achieved is the result of preferential policies released by the Party and the unprecedented efforts made by local people."
As one of China's most impoverished areas, Tibet has been the focus of recent support from the central government.
Last year, 4.29 billion yuan was provided to help more than 1,300 poverty alleviation projects.
That saw the amount invested in the region by the central and regional governments rise by 1.6 percent year-on-year to 11 billion yuan, while loans issued to individuals and companies involved in poverty alleviation projects reached 110 billion yuan.
Meanwhile, the local government provided nearly 40 percent of the 6.75 million yuan granted to Xuecun village, Nedong, to fund construction of a nursery base in 2106.
The base was completed in June, and more than 53,000 square meters were sown with pears, peaches and herbs, plus white poplar trees which will eventually be sold as lumber.
"Before I came to the base, I raised sheep and yaks. My four family members and I used to earn about 10,000 yuan a year, but now I make 100 yuan a day and receive a free daily meal, too," said Tsering Tsamgyi, one of 72 impoverished local residents employed at the base.
"My task is to remove stones and weeds around the saplings," the 53-year-old said. "I work from 9 am to 7 pm. The work is easier than raising livestock and I earn much more than before."
Sonam Tsering, manager of the base, said the facility is expected to earn 3.26 billion yuan this year, and 60 percent of the profit will be given to villagers who are officially classified as impoverished, as part of the government's financial support program.
Zeng Youzhi, one of two deputy directors of the Tibet Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation, said: "Developing industries with local characteristics is the key to Tibet's poverty alleviation work. Impoverished people in destitute areas are encouraged to work in industries that provide stable incomes to ensure that poverty alleviation work is sustainable."
Corporate social responsibility and local resources are also being channeled in the fight against poverty.
Tibet Huaji Fashion Co, formerly known as the Huaji Hand-woven Product Cooperative, in Tsethang, a town in Nedong, is home to 79 people who live below the poverty line.
Launched in May 2008, the company mainly produces hand-woven cashmere scarves and shawls, Tibetan costumes and thangka, traditional Tibetan Buddhist paintings.
"We pay a minimum wage of 3,000 yuan a month, and provide workers with meals and rooms. Seven impoverished people joined us in 2008, and now we have 79," said Pasang Tsering, assistant to the general manager.
Pema Dekyi, from Chusum county, Lhokha, has worked for the company as a weaver since 2015.
"My husband and I used to be miners, earning less than 3,000 yuan a month. We lost our jobs when the mine was mechanized three years ago," the 47-year-old said.
The company enrolled Pema Dekyi on a six-month training program, where she mastered weaving techniques. She now earns about 3,500 yuan a month, and receives a yearly bonus ranging from 8,000 yuan to 10,000 yuan. Her husband no longer works.
"He takes care of our child who goes to school at Tsethang; our life is much better than before," she said.
Lhoka native Pema Dekyi at her loom at Tibet Huaji Fashion Co. (Photo/China Daily)
Tibet, covered by a variety of plants, including ancient woodlands, grasses, and shrubs, is defined as a "State-level ecological shield" by the central government.
Two years ago, the regional authorities adopted the central government's preferential environmental protection policies and published the 13th Five-year Plan for Ecological Protection Subsidies in the Tibet autonomous region (2016-20).
The plan echoes the Compensation Fund for Forest Ecological Benefits released by the Ministry of Finance in 2004, and encourages poor farmers and herdsmen to work as rangers to protect the region's forests, grasslands, nature reserves, streams, rivers and lakes.
Last year, the central government allocated more than 9.35 billion yuan to pay 700,000 rangers, which benefited more than 2 million households.
"It's essential to balance poverty alleviation work and ecological protection, because the environment is crucial to Tibet's economic development," said Norbu Dondrub, from the regional standing committee.
According to Lu Huadong, the other deputy director of the Tibet Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation, the program provides real work for people in need.
"We offer jobs to impoverished people who are able to work, and provide an income of 3,000 yuan a year. Like the State's environmental protection policy, the program reaches those who need stable incomes and it delivers genuine results," he said.
Dadrin, a 52-year-old former herdsman from Maldrogungkar county, Lhasa, has been a forest ranger for about 13 years.
"In 2004, we were offered jobs that provided a stable income after the central government released a policy to employ rangers to help protect the environment," he said.
"I was very happy. When I was raising yaks I could only earn 1,000 yuan to 2,000 yuan a year, while my wife and children stayed at home because they couldn't find work. Times were hard."
Dadrin, who like many Tibetans only has one name, said about 160 impoverished people in Maldrogungkar were initially recruited as forest rangers, but more people were employed in 2016.
"I earn 3,000 yuan per year. I also raise yaks and do some part-time work in my free time, so I can make about 12,000 yuan a year now," he said.
"The only problem is the inadequate insurance cover. Patrolling the forest is dangerous work as wild bears and other animals can appear very suddenly. But I believe things will improve and our lives will become even better soon."
While the situation is improving, there is still much to be done, according to Norbu Dondrub.
"More than 400,000 people in the region still live in poverty, and 4,456 villages in 69 districts and counties have yet to see the situation improve. It will be hard work to lift all those people out of poverty by 2020," he said.
Developing industries based on local resources will remain a priority for the regional government this year, along with solving problems that have emerged in the application of preferential policies designed to help residents.
"Government-sponsored programs, including raising yaks, bottling spring water and producing hand-woven goods, are still small-scale ventures, and some of the new products are not very competitive in the market," said Zeng, from the Tibet Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation.
"Tibet's financial market is still in its infancy and requires much improvement, especially in terms of debt-repayment programs.
"We offer preferential policies to entrepreneurs and companies, but the market is still not as active as those in other provinces and regions."
He stressed that the people of Tibet are the crucial element in the fight against poverty, and more educational and health projects will be launched this year to enable them to earn more money and improve their standard of living.