Home, sweet new home.

Hai Guobao’s memories of his old home revolve around poverty and barely making ends meet. That was why he and his family and 60-plus villagers migrated 300 kilometers from Guyuan, an arid and impoverished mountainous area in the Ningxia Hui autonomus region.

Relocation of impoverished populations is one of the measures the government has adopted for its “targeted poverty-alleviation” program. Under the program, people are advised to move from areas that lack conditions that allow them to make a decent living. However, the residents themselves have to approve the measure.

Hai clearly remembers the difficult decision he had to make five years ago. “We Chinese farmers see our ancestral home as the root of our family,” he said. “Leaving home is a final resort.”

In 1972, Guyuan was recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization as one of the places most “unfit for human habitation” on Earth. It was the first area covered by a resettlement program established by the government in the early 1980s.

Hai, a village head widely respected by his villagers, was entrusted to go and see what the villagers’ new homes would look like. He recalled what he told his neighbors when he returned: “If you trust me, you have to listen to me this time. Electricity, tap water, jobs… the government has thought it all out for us. It will be a life from our dreams.”

Because a great many people helped with the relocation process, Hai had no idea who he should thank specifically until July last year when he received a special guest, President Xi Jinping. It was Xi who kick-started the construction of Hai’s new village 20 years ago.

Another unique measure the government uses to fight poverty is a program called “East-West Pairing-off Cooperation for Poverty Reduction”, whereby a developed province in the east assists a less-developed region in the west.

As a provincial leader in the eastern province of Fujian, which was paired with Ningxia, Xi was shocked to see the plight of local farmers, and proposed building a new village called Minning (Fujian-Ningxia) village. The past 20 years have seen the resident’s per capita incomes rise 20-fold.

It’s little wonder that Xi, who has strong feelings about poverty relief, proposed the ambitious goal of lifting every impoverished person out of poverty by 2020, meaning 10 million people being freed from scarcity every year.

Hai said he thanked President Xi for his help, and later put a large photo of Xi with his family in the most prominent place in the living room.

Asked whether he misses his old home, Hai conceded that he did, and said the family visits their old home once a year. There, the infertile farmland has been planted with trees, and the mountains are gradually becoming greener.