Residents of southern Xinjiang's Hotan Prefecture have been weaving carpets for at least 2,000 years, but the ancient craft has created a new opportunity for villagers, especially women, to bring themselves out of poverty.
Sahipjamal Tursunniyaz, 30, learned traditional Hotan carpet weaving from her mother when she was 18. But it was not until two months ago that she began to make silk carpets, a finer handicraft than the traditional rugs.
"I can earn 4,000 yuan ($600) for each square meter of handmade silk rug," said Tursunniyaz. Although it takes a month and a half to complete a square meter of silk carpet, it helps Tursunniyaz increase her income.
Tursunniyaz works at a local carpet factory in Hotan. Many other women in this district have improved their living standards through rug weaving.
Abliz Metyusup, manager of Xinjiang Nakixwan Hand Carpet Development Co., Ltd., said the gross output of his company in 2016 reached more than 28 million yuan, providing employment for more than 600 women. Ten percent of its products are exported to Australia, Britain, the United States and Germany.
The company also built three kindergartens for the employees to provide free education for their children.
So far, the prefecture has 157 carpet factories, which have provided 120,000 jobs for locals. Women account for 95 percent of the employees.
Local governments have also provided more than 10,000 carpet stands for impoverished households to encourage them to produce carpets.
Villagers in Yaprak, a small village in Hotan, are exploring ways to eliminate poverty with the local government's assistance.
Jelili Obulqasim, 58, has been growing roses for more than a decade, and earns a good living making and selling rose jam.
However, Obulqasim is an exception in his village. Of the 1,700 villagers, more than 65 percent have annual incomes below 3,000 yuan.
Masim Qapar, Communist Party secretary of the village, blames the poverty in the village on the lack of arable land. She said everyone in the village grew roses 20 years ago, but villagers preferred to grow other crops so they would have enough food for themselves.
At the beginning of this year, a group of officials and experts carried out surveys in the village, and ultimately reaffirmed the feasibility of growing roses.
Experts have made a tailored poverty alleviation plan for the village: plant wheat and roses at the same time.
"Since planting roses does not generate profits for the first two years, we encourage villagers to plant wheat and roses together. The harvested wheat can ensure villagers' basic livelihood, while from the third year on, roses will bring profits so they don't need to plant wheat anymore," explained He Wei, another official with the village.
The roses will be used for making rose jam, a popular food in Hotan, and will also be processed into rose oil and related products, which are expected to be sold across the country, He said.
Villagers from 300 households planted wheat by early October and will plant rose seedlings, provided by the local government, a month later.
He said in the future they will work with neighboring villages and factories to produce rose products and develop tourism by expanding farms to attract visitors from nearby cities.
Thanks to a series of poverty alleviation measures in recent years, the number of impoverished people in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region had dropped from 2.6 million in 2013 to 1.2 million by the end of 2016.
"We have the confidence and the methods to lift the remaining impoverished households out of poverty by 2020," said Niu Xuexing, Party chief of Hotan, during the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
China has set 2020 as the target to complete the building of a moderately prosperous society, which requires the eradication of poverty.
As of the end of 2016, there were 43.35 million Chinese living below the national poverty line.
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