Zhengzhou, Oct 21 (Xinhua/UNB) – Chen Shifa, 68, left his hometown at 14 and went hunting for jobs in different cities across China. Three decades on, he returned at long last to the deep mountains of central China's Henan Province.
Chen dropped out of school in 1982 due to poverty and started a journey working outside his hometown, a remote village in Guangshan County, located in the Dabie Mountains, which stretch across the provinces of Henan, Anhui and Hubei.
"I'd waited for three days to squeeze into the train. When I was lying in the square of the railway station, I wondered why I had to leave home and why I couldn't find work there," he recalled.
Chen was not alone. The name of "Guangshan" reflects the state of the county at that time: barren hills, as locals found it difficult to develop agriculture, let alone attract companies. Young people in the county had to find jobs elsewhere to make a living.
Chen traveled to the eastern provinces of Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Shanghai. He worked as a road worker in Tibet from 2000. The laborious road construction work brought him a good income, but Chen always thought that he would return to his hometown.
True to his word, he traveled back to Guangshan County in 2008, and one year later, he set up a company with his savings to plant tea-oil trees, also known as oil-tea camellia, an important source of edible oil obtained from its seeds.
Under the guidance and support of the local government, Chen leads the tea-oil trees plantation in the county and employs poor locals to give them a stable income.
Apart from Chen, more and more rural residents, who previously moved away from home in search of higher salaries in more prosperous regions, have been seen coming back to rural areas in recent years. They are becoming important cogs in the rural vitalization strategy across the country.
Yang Changtai, also a villager of Guangshan County, had done odd jobs at construction sites in cities for more than 20 years. He had to return to his home in 2012 after a car accident.
With an annual income of about 50,000 yuan (7,026 U.S. dollars) in Beijing, Yang invested his savings to grow seedlings and flowers back in the county.
Thanks to a series of supporting policies made by the local government, Yang's business flourished. He expanded his farm from 40 hectares to more than 86 hectares, providing jobs for 118 villagers.
In neighboring Xinxian County, Han Guangying racked his brain to explore ways for villagers in his hometown to shake off poverty.
In 2012, Han left for the Republic of Korea and worked in a shipyard. Although he could earn about 200,000 yuan per year, he kept a close eye on his hometown and always thought of returning.
The 48-year-old quit his job and returned home in 2016. He invested over 200,000 yuan to rebuild his old and humble house into a homestay, the first in the village, bringing him nearly 100,000 yuan per year.
Han's successful experience encouraged other villagers, who have since built more than 10 homestays of their own. The unique style of the old buildings in the village attracts many visitors.
"We hope more villagers will join us, so that they don't have to travel far away to work and enjoy the life in the village," Han said.