Disabled farmer helps with local poverty alleviation with woodcarving craftsmanship
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“I’m planning to learn Internet technologies to boost sales through online means, create more original works, and hire more disabled people. These are my three big plans,” said Feng Xiangbo, a 38-year-old disabled Chinese farmer who has not only freed his own family from poverty, but also helped with poverty alleviation efforts of many local people.
“(In 2019) our value of sales exceeded 6 million yuan ($851,700). Basically all the orders were for processing materials provided by clients, which brought us profits of hundreds of thousands yuan. Now we have received nearly 6 million worth of orders for this year, which may be more than we can finish by the end of this year,” Feng disclosed.
Living in Ziquejie village, Shuiche town, Xinhua county, Loudi city of central China, Xinhua county, Feng owns a woodcarving company named Xiaoxiang Wood Industry Company, which has four disabled apprentices and 16 employees from poor local households.
The company building, located at the first floor of a four-storey building in Shuiche town, serves as the poverty-relief relocation site of poor local households.
Poverty-stricken families live on the second floor and above, while the rooms of the first floor are all used for poverty alleviation efforts, according to He Zhifeng, secretary of the Communist Party of China Shuiche town committee.
Feng’s left leg was crippled by polio when he was six months old. In an effort to cure his leg, his father did farm work from dawn to night. However, years of treatment didn’t help improve Feng’s leg, and his father, who had fallen sick from overwork, passed away when he was young.
At the age of 16, Feng dropped out of school to reduce the economic burden on his family, going out of his hometown to learn carving skills from several sculpture artists. As his grandfather and father both knew carpentry, he had developed an interest in the field since he was young.
After learning relevant skills for eight years, Feng worked as a migrant worker in several Chinese provinces and cities, including southeast China’s Fujian province and Shenzhen in south China’s Guangdong province.
When Feng returned to his hometown to start his own business in 2014, the next year Ziquejie village was identified as poor village and his family of four was identified as a registered poor household.
After hearing that Feng was good at woodcarving craftsmanship, the poverty alleviation working group stationed in Ziquejie village helped Feng get a 100,000 yuan interest-free loan and encouraged him to set up a woodcarving workshop.
Starting his own business at the foot of Ziquejie mountain, Feng opened a shop carving, and his wife took charge of polishing and painting. The wood and root carved products, with fine workmanship and low prices, quickly won favour with tourists, which helped Feng’s family shake off poverty the next year, since the opening of the shop.
In 2017, when the resettlement housing site of Shuiche town was put into use, Feng rented a room covering more than 800 square metres on the first floor of the building with less than 30,000 yuan and bought equipment and started recruiting apprentices and employees.
“When I returned to my hometown to start my own business, our Party and government offered great support for me. I just want to help disabled people and poor households, and make my contributions to the society,” Feng said.
Xiao Yong, a 32-year-old man, was Feng’s first apprentice. Xiao was from a registered poor household and had worked as a migrant worker before.
“I can not only have income and learn skills here as an apprentice of my teacher,” Xiao said, adding “I have been able to earn 40 000 to 50 000 yuan a year in recent years. and I’ve already got rid of poverty.”
With his continued efforts to improve his craftsmanship, Feng has won prizes at national and provincial skills competitions for persons with disabilities and has been identified as a technical expert.
* This article was published in partnership with People’s Daily Online SA.