Tourism lifts historic Tibetan village of song out of poverty

China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-05-05 10:59

Born into a poverty-stricken household in Dagdong village, the Tibet autonomous region, Kelsang Jampa never imagined that one day he would own a new house with a neat courtyard.

He moved into his new two-story house, built by the side of his old home, just before Tibetan New Year, which fell on Feb 27.

On the hillside in front of his home are the ruins of the sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso's manor. Dagdong, a traditional farming village on the outskirts of Lhasa, was mentioned in a famed love poem by the Dalai Lama that mentions the hill where his manor was located.

More than 20 percent of the village's population of 800 people are registered as impoverished. A year ago, Jampa and his five family members were still living on an annual social security grant of 6,000 yuan ($870).

However, thanks to the central government's poverty-alleviation campaign, Dagdong has started to change.

According to Jampa, the village stayed much the same for decades until April last year, when a tourism company was jointly founded by two local companies, with support from the Niu township government.

New roads have been built, walls repainted and resort hotels and campsites have appeared.

Along with the improved infrastructure, an increasing number of tourists from across the world have rushed to visit the ancient village.

Tourists camp in front of the ruins of Tsangyang Gyatso's manor, visit the 900-year-old peach tree there and look around the ancient temples in the village.

Since most Tibetans prefer not to migrate for work, the younger villagers have viewed the tourism boom as a good opportunity for them to make money in their hometown.

Jampa's new house was built as part of a tourism project, which provided work for his son - transporting construction materials.

"My son will take his driving test soon. With a driver's license, he can earn money transporting materials. I will rent out a room in my new house to a yogurt processing mill, which will bring me a monthly rent of 2,000 yuan," Jampa said.

This year, the annual income of his family is expected to surpass 40,000 yuan.

"My name will eventually be included on the list of households who have cast off poverty," Jampa said.

Another villager, 70-year-old Chonyi Dechen, said she never imagined her son would find a job in a local orchard.

Tourism has created vacancies for cleaners, security guards and waiters that villagers can now fill.

Statistics from the regional tourism development commission show that the region's investment in tourism and tourism-related poverty alleviation projects totaled more than 600 million yuan last year, bringing benefits to over 40,000 impoverished people in the region.

The regional government hopes that by the end of 2020, all farmers and herdsmen engaged in tourism will be able to earn an average annual income of 16,000 yuan.

"This year, we will spend 90 million yuan to build a hotel and a hot spring resort," said Tobgye, head of the township.

It is estimated that Dagdong will receive 150,000 tourists this year, bringing 40,000 to 60,000 yuan in revenue for each family.

"Villagers find hope in the tourism industry. We are not far from the day when we can completely get rid of poverty," Tobgye said.

One month ago, dozens of hectares of peach trees were planted by the ruins of Tsangyang Gyatso's manor in Dagdong with financial support from the Niu township government.

The village will hold its first peach flower festival in May.


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