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Village in mountainous Yunnan builds road to development
11/22/2020




Mountainous terrain and desertification in southwest China's Yunnan Province had left some remote villages trapped, making chances for development difficult.

Over three quarters of the farmland in Xichou County used to be stony desert. The land was so bare that geologists once asserted that it was completely inhospitable. The harsh environment left families without access to work, school, or hospitals for decades.

"My village is completely isolated by stony desert. When my child went to school, he had to walk three hours. When we needed water, we had to go to another village to get it. When my neighbors wanted to sell a sow, they needed four men to carry it down the hills. It's ridiculous. And sometimes villagers fell down the cliff doing that. It's just not worth it," said Li Huaming, head of Yantou Village.

Li and his fellow villagers decided what they needed was a way out, literally. But when he sought out a professional construction team, the price scared him off. At last, Li realized he had to do the impossible.

"We didn't gather enough money to get a construction team. So I thought, it's just breaking up the stones. How hard can it be? Turns out I was wrong," said Li.

The ground surface is extremely hard to break, and because there's another village downhill, using explosives could be dangerous. So villagers had to use shovels and small electric drills. Construction work moved very slowly.

There were only under 80 people living in Yantou Village at the time. Many had farm work and other chores. They had to use scraps of spare time to build the road, protracting the project to 12 years.

Today, the stony desert of Xichou County has turned into forest, and the trapped villages have developed their own agriculture.

"I came back to Xichou after I got a degree in animal husbandry in college. I wanted to do something for my hometown. At first, I failed several times and lost millions. Now I own five farms across the county. I try to hire local people and give them a chance to work here and take care of their families,” said Zhang Tonglin, a pig farm owner.

When asked why he didn't simply move out of a place with such a challenging environment, Li said it's in Xichou people's blood to stick together, close to home.

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