Bringing it all back home

Updated: 2015-12-04 07:57

By Li Yang and Yang Jun(China Daily)

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Bringing it all back home

A woman works at a factory of Qingdao Daheyongan Garment Co in Zhijin county, Guizhou, on Nov 26. The factory produces jeans for global brands such as Levi Strauss and Zara. [Photo by Yang Jun / China Daily]

'Surrogate parent'

Shen, who has worked at the school since she graduated from a local university in 2007, said life in the mountains is decades behind modern city life, but she is happy to help more children attend middle school, especially those from isolated areas, such as the student whose home is two and a half hours away by foot.

"Some of the left-behind children see me as a surrogate parent, and the feeling of being trusted gives me a strong sense of responsibility," she said.

In 2011, the World Bank provided 7 million yuan to help the residents of Luojiazhai, a village of the Miao ethnic group near Hetaozhai, to start a collective for embroidery and weaving.

Last year, the collective produced goods valued at about 4 million yuan, and the number of members has grown from 39, mostly women, in one village in 2011, to 234 people from seven ethnic groups in seven villages.

"I can take care of the kids and work for the cooperative, earning 2,200 to 4,000 yuan a month depending on how productive I am," said Li Xuelian, who was operating a traditional wooden loom while carrying her grandson on her back.

A similar government-funded cooperative run by Miao people that specializes in dyed batik cloth and has been operating since 2009 has been bolstered by a rise in the number of tourists at a global geo-park in Bijie, which is home to the famous Zhijindong Cave. More than 200 young women work at home while taking care of their children and families and sell their products to the cooperative.

Unlike Hetaozhai or Luojiazhai, Shaowo village has about 14 hectares of farmland, a rare sight in the valleys of the mountainous region. In 2012, a vegetable business from Weifang, Shandong province, spent 20 million yuan to build greenhouses and the Bijie government contributed 10 million yuan to build the infrastructure for the cultivation of bamboo fungus mushrooms, peppers, kidney beans, purple cabbage and broccoli.

Song Yuan, a local resident who is the project's general manager, said more than 100 villagers have now returned from distant cities to work in the greenhouses, and many have become shareholders by allowing crops to be sown on their land.

One of the worker/shareholders, Wang Jiayi, 54, spent more than 10 years in Kunming, Yunnan province, and Xiamen, Fujian province, doing "all kinds of work that urban residents don't want to do themselves".

"I can make 100 yuan a day here. More important, it takes me only five minutes to walk home," he said. "At the end of every year, I get a dividend. Before, I was begging my boss to pay my wages in full."

His neighbor Wang Gang, regarded as the most-gifted entrepreneur in the village, is an exception because he runs his own business. "I would not like to be employed (by someone else)," he said, pointing out that he was happy to rent out his land to the company, but refused to work for it. Instead, he runs a family inn, a fish pond, a small eatery and a distillery, where he and his wife produce homemade liquor.

"I have noticed that the organic food, scenic tourism and ethnic cultures here are more attractive to a growing number of 'self-drive" tourists and backpackers now than they were three years ago," he said.