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Poverty eradication lessons from China

The past 30 years have seen the world’s most populous nation, China,  grow exponentially to the economic giant that it is today. However, even as it  registers remarkable success and progress year on year, China still grapples with a large poor population with more than 70 million people out of the total of 1.4 billion still living under the 2,300-Yuan(383 US Dollars) a year poverty line.

However it is worth noting that this number has come down from a whopping 689 million back in 1990 and 250 million in 2011. This is attributed to measures that China has been employing relentlessly with the goal of lifting its entire population out of poverty and build a moderately-prosperous nation by 2020. Like Kenya, the East Asian nation is hard at work implementing the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs) with the country’s leadership availing financial, human  and other resources towards this end.

In March this year, the Chinese Government issued express orders to local governments to fight poverty and allocated 16 billion RMB(2.5B US Dollars) through the National Development and Reform Commission for various projects, with the total number of people lifted out of poverty becoming a yardstick in evaluating the leaders’ performance.

One of the most radical methods that the Chinese Government is employing in fighting poverty is what is known as ‘Whole-Village Relocations’ where people living in very remote and poverty-stricken villages are relocated to more inhabitable and economically and agriculturally-viable  areas.

One of the regions that has been home to mass whole-village relocations is the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, an arid provincial-level autonomous region with a population of only 6.6 million people. According to Mr. Yang Gang from the Ningxia Development and Reforms Commission office, more than 580,000 people in the region are still living below the poverty line. “The Central Government has identified 1,100 villages in 9 counties in this region as being poverty-stricken with 581,200 people unable to adequately feed or clothe themselves.

These people also lack access to basic amenities like water,’’ he says. After research, it was found that most of these poor people live in remote areas, some of which have been classified as uninhabitable by the UN. It is for this reason that the Government embarked on these whole-village relocations, with more than 1.3 million people having been relocated in the past 5 years and homes of 287,000 others that were rundown being renovated. In a letter to a relocated resident earlier this year, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang termed the whole-village relocations as a ‘move aimed at cutting the roots of poverty while ensuring that villagers maintain their kinship and friendship.’

In Liangtian Township in Jinfeng District, we found Heshun Village which comprises 3,200 relocated families living in 750 new homes. Residents, upon arriving here were given a 2-bedroomed house with electricity and running water, as well as a green house each.

A stark difference from life in the remote, arid villages where they could not even farm because of unfavourable weather and soil conditions. Along with these, the local Government has also put in place the necessary infrastructure such as roads, medical facilities as well as public service offices and schools. Government is also providing residents here with training to boost their skills and ease their ability to get jobs, as well as subsidising loans for those who seek to open businesses.

It is true that such initiatives cost a lot of money, but it can be done. Kenya too can ensure its people rise out of poverty. With joint efforts from both Government and non-Government sector players, Kenya could be well on its way to meet the SDGs and show poverty the door . . . for good.



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