Kala Village: A Peach Blossom Wonderland with Bright Prospects
A scattering of courtyards, wide and pristine roads, and babbling streams are set against a backdrop of jade-like foliage. Beneath a soft blanket of drizzle, Kala, a village in Nyingchi, Xizang Autonomous Region, lives up to its unique charm as the "Jiangnan of the snowy regions," a reference to the prosperous towns south of the Yangtze River.
When President Xi Jinping visited Kala Village on July 21, 2021, he was briefed on how the village was harnessing the guiding role of Party development, leading local residents in increasing incomes and realizing prosperity, and improving primary-level governance. President Xi visited the village services center, the "green bank" where residents earn points for recycling waste, and the health clinic to learn more about related initiatives. He also called to the home of Dawa Gyaltsen to hear about his daily life and discuss development issues. President Xi noted that the wonderful life in Kala Village was indicative of Xizang's achievements in economic and social development in the 70 years since its peaceful liberation—Kala was a place where national unity and progress was in full evidence. The words of the President summed up the marvelous changes that have occurred in Kala Village in the current era and have spurred local officials and residents to build on their achievements in development and write a new chapter in the story of realizing better lives for the people.
Safeguarding natural resources to promote tourism
More than 1,200 wild peach trees make up the 18-plus hectares of peach blossom groves in Kala Village. When spring arrives, the peach trees bloom one after another, turning the mountainside a riot of rosy pink. It is the picturesque spring scenery of this snowy region that has earned Kala the title of Xizang's "peach blossom village." The village is also the host of Nyingchi's peach blossom tourism and culture festival.
"Kala first hosted the peach blossom festival back in 2002," recalls the village Party branch secretary Penpa. "At that time, pigs and cattle still roamed freely around the village, residents would set up stalls in a chaotic fashion, and the village looked quite rundown. For ten years, the festival didn't create any practical benefit."
In 2014, with the help of officials assigned to Kala under the aid-Xizang initiative, Kala moved to build its brand as a "peach blossom village" and undertook renovations to standardize the appearance of the village. It built a tourist reception station, and gradually promoted projects to house livestock separately from humans, promote afforestation and greening, renovate courtyards, pave roads, and put plumbing and wiring underground. When the transformation was complete, tourists began to pour into the village. Revenue from tourism grew year upon year, allowing residents to move toward prosperity by relying on the tourist industry.
"President Xi was very interested to hear about the revenue we earned from the natural peach groves and the peach blossom festival. He urged us to protect the precious resources left behind by our ancestors," explained Penpa. After President Xi's visit, Kala Village gained fresh clarity and motivation for developing tourism and moved to further expand its "tourism plus" development model. It built gardens for sightseeing and fruit picking, upgraded local farm stays, developed cultivation bases for other species of flowers and plants, created programs for experiencing local customs, and introduced innovative products related to local culture, while also developing specialty foods made with peach blossoms. The extended tourist chain improved visitor experiences and left tourists more satisfied. In 2021, the peach blossom festival welcomed a total of 140,000 tourists, generating net income of more than 4.6 million yuan, out of which a sum of 1.5 million yuan was set aside to be used for development, and the rest was shared among the village's 33 households, earning dividends of close to 100,000 yuan for each.
Promoting environmental conservation and the protection of ecosystems
At Kala's "green bank," a paper cup of cigarette butts can be exchanged for 20 points. Half a kilo of plastic bags will earn you 100 points, and 5 kilograms of waste paper or cardboard are worth 300 points. The green bank where residents earn points for recycling waste opened in early 2021. By sorting and recycling waste, allowing people to regularly exchange points for daily necessities, and offering cash subsidies for price differences, the village has encouraged the habit of recycling among residents, cleaned up the village environment, and promoted concerted efforts to build a beautiful countryside.
"When I explained the idea to President Xi, he nodded his head. Then he smiled and said, 'What you are doing is excellent. Keep up the great work.'" Village resident Yeshe Choedon wells with pride as she recalls the scene of introducing the operations of the "Green Bank" to President Xi.
In 2022, the village Party branch and village committee linked up with the Agricultural Bank of China (ABC) to take the innovative step of launching a "green bank" points system, which established a green credit record for each village resident. Based on a points ranking system, residents with high points can build their credit rating for ABC's e-loan for farmers, and gain priority access to financial services including information f iling and credit ratings, while also enjoying access to larger loan amounts. This step is enabling villagers to practically benefit from the fruits of environmental protection while also boosting their motivation and initiative for promoting ecological conservation.
Promoting aid-Xizang projects to drive rural revitalization
"President Xi was very happy to hear that I had started a family in Nyingchi. He expressed a hope that we would put down roots here and contribute to Nyingchi's development," said Huang Haifen, a university graduate who works as a village official. "I have no regrets about moving here from Guangdong. After meeting President Xi, I am even more certain about my choice."
The chrysalis-like transformation of Kala Village would not have been possible without the solid backing of aid-Xizang projects. Since 2014, officials from Guangdong assigned to Xizang under these projects have offered leadership, planning, and development expertise. After conducting an in-depth study in the village, officials from Guangdong came up with a plan to upgrade Kala's peach blossom groves and turn Kala into a demonstration village for moderate prosperity. They acquired the support of landscape enterprises for designing the appearance of the village, raised funds from a diverse range of contributors for specific projects, and threw themselves into development work alongside local officials and residents. These efforts have helped to gradually create harmony between production and life in the village and the natural environment and pushed Kala's development onto an accelerated trajectory.
Today, new aid teams from Guangdong have taken over the baton and are helping promote higher-quality and more efficient rural revitalization in Kala. They have promoted industrial development through various steps, worked continuously to integrate resources, vigorously promoted the brand of Kala Village, and advocated seizing further opportunities for development while keeping tourism in full bloom so as to ensure the "flower of national unity and progress" remains evergreen. In March 2022, the ninth group of aid-Xizang teams launched a large-scale lightbox publicity campaign on the Guangzhou subway to introduce Kala's peach blossoms and Nyingchi culture to the residents of Guangzhou.
As Penpa puts it, "The improvements in Kala Village are the fruits of assistance provided by Guangdong. The friendship between Guangdong and Xizang is an embodiment of the notion that all China's ethnic groups belong to one family."
(Originally appeared in Qiushi Journal, Chinese edition, No. 10, 2022)