China Focus: Inner Mongolia's ethnic minorities leave poverty behind

Source: Xinhua| 2017-12-29 00:23:43|Editor: Mu Xuequan
Video PlayerClose

HOHHOT, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Qu Bo's restaurant in northern China is known for its Russian and local specialties -- Russian bread, Russian lamb soup, mushrooms, and fish.

Qu, 38, is an ethnic Russian from Enhe township in Hulun Buir City, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. With its Russian flavors, the restaurant has attracted a lot of tourists and helped Qu's family escape poverty.

China's Russian ethnic minority group is relatively small in population, numbering about 15,000 in the country, a third of whom live in Inner Mongolia.

Like many ethnic Russians in the township, Qu's family used to rely on stock farming and forestry, industries that have gradually weakened. In 2004, China started a program to help bring areas inhabited by ethnic minority groups with a population of less than 100,000 out of poverty. The local government decided to develop family tourism.

"At first, few believed that people would travel to this poor and remote area, and didn't want to try. We decided to open a restaurant and set an example," said Wang Jing, Qu's wife.

They set up two tables in their Russian log house, where the family has been living for more than a century.

As one of 10 families that took the lead in developing family tourism, Qu's household received a subsidy of 20,000 yuan from the Ergun city government. The city government also invested to build better roads and improve water and power supply.

Last year, Qu's family made an annual income of 300,000 yuan (about 45,000 U.S dollars), but ten years ago, they earned no more than 10,000 yuan per year by raising cows.

Now, about 500 people dine at their restaurant each day in the summer. Additionally, they have built six new log houses and opened a family inn, and more tourists keep coming.

More than 110 families have followed Qu's example. Last year, tourists made about 600,000 trips to the township, and the average annual net income of these families increased to about 90,000 yuan.

"The township was impoverished ten years ago, but now all ethnic Russians have gotten out of poverty," said Zhan Kecheng, director of the city's poverty alleviation and development office.

While ethnic Russians have developed family tourism, the Ewenki ethnic minority are shaking off poverty with traditional handicrafts.

Hasgrolo, 48, makes traditional ethnic clothing for a living in the Ewenki Autonomous Banner.

Last year, she was registered as living below the poverty line as she sustained losses from raising sheep and her husband suffered from serious heart disease.

Hasgrolo is good at making traditional clothing, a handicraft that has been passed down in her family, so the local government encouraged her to produce clothing.

As part of the poverty-relief program, the local government offered her a two-story shop, which she may use for free for two years, as well as financial support to buy the necessary equipment.

Thanks to all the efforts, she now earns about 6,000 yuan a month, able to pay her debt and leave poverty behind.

China has about 30,000 ethnic Ewenki people, and a third of them live in the banner. Many Ewenki women are good at needlework, embroidery, carving and paper-cutting, so the local government encourages and supports locals to open ethnic handicraft businesses. All households registered as living below the poverty line are expected to be out of poverty by the end of this year, said Li Zhidong, the banner's deputy party chief.

Inner Mongolia aims to accelerate development of areas inhabited by ethnic minorities with small populations in the next three years. In recent years, the country and the region have invested 2.58 billion yuan. So far, the registered poor population in these areas has dropped from 60,817 at the end of 2015 to 36,849 early this year.