Across China: Aromatic lavender brings Xinjiang youths back to village

Source: Xinhua| 2019-07-18 21:09:38|Editor: Liangyu
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URUMQI, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Ma Yuan quit her job as a salesgirl in a big city and returned to Sigong Village in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region one month ago.

In Ma's eyes, Sigong Village, under the jurisdiction of Huocheng County, is no longer a remote locality, but an attractive place full of opportunities.

Huocheng County started to grow lavender in the 1960s. Located on the same latitude as Provence in France, the county shares similar meteorological and soil conditions with its French counterpart, allowing it to become the largest lavender production base in China and the third largest in the world, following Provence and Japan's Furano.

The county now has nearly 4,000 hectares of lavender farms.

Lavender has now become a lucrative business in Huocheng, which can not only be made into diverse products, including essential oil, dried lavender bundles and aromatherapy products, but also promote the development of lavender-related tourism due to its photogenic fields.

"Lavender related business has increased locals' incomes three to fourfold," said Li Zengjie, a county official.

Therefore, an increasing number of young villagers have been seen returning to their hometowns, rather than working as migrant workers in big cities, Li said.

Ma, 33, a member of the Hui ethnic group, smelt an opportunity and joined the flock heading back to the village.

She currently works for a newly built guesthouse in Sigong and helps her father serve tourists in his restaurant in her spare time.

"I can earn more than 4,000 yuan (around 581 U.S. dollars) per month, 1,000 yuan more than I was paid as a salesgirl. I can also take care of my father and lend a helping hand to his business," Ma said.

Wang Haipeng, a university graduate, came back to Sigong from eastern Jiangxi Province not long ago. "I plan to build a guesthouse and I'm working on it."

The number of tourists visiting Xinjiang has increased by more than 30 percent for two consecutive years since 2017, and the "lavender county" hopes to jump on the bandwagon.

In the meantime, China proposed the strategy of rural vitalization in 2017 to benefit the development of agriculture, enrich rural areas and improve farmers' lives.

Thanks to a series of supporting policies being implemented, rural areas across the country have undergone significant changes since then.

Xinjiang, over the past few years, has laid down policies and measures to encourage tourism, attract young people to develop rural areas and welcome outside investment.

Officials in Huocheng were sent to famous, modern villages in east China's Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces to learn from their success, where the burgeoning rural tourism industry has become an important driving force for these provinces' rural economy.

The county has also invited young investors and designers to pool wisdom behind the development of local tourism.

Liu Feng, a young designer from central China's Hunan Province, invested about 500,000 yuan with his partners to overhaul and renovate an abandoned house, which became the first guesthouse in Sigong.

The six rooms of Liu's guesthouse are now fully booked until September since it opened in June.

So far, eight guesthouses in Sigong have begun operation. Villagers who have participated in the guesthouse operation are expected to receive dividends in due course.

Ma Yuan's father was born in Sigong, and he has witnessed these great changes take place. "Wheat fields turned into lavender farms, outside people came to the village to do business, houses became guesthouses and now young people are coming back."

"The old village has been rejuvenated because of them," Ma added.