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Incense maker brings sweet scent of poverty relief to village

2020-08-19 08:49:00China Daily

Samdrup, 50, is quite the local celebrity in Gyalmed village, Puchu township of Nyingchi city, Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region, as he not only left behind poverty with his hard work, but has also been helping others live better lives.

Born in Renbung county, Xigaze city in Tibet, Samdrup had been influenced by his family since he was a child and now is a skilled craftsman of exquisite Tibetan incense. Made using a variety of rare Chinese herbs in proportion, Tibetan incense has great medicinal value in modern times for its ability to purify the air and prevent diseases.

In 2005, while working in Nyingchi, he met a young woman from Gyalmed village, Puchu township, and soon the two started a family and settled down in the village.

At that time, the major income for the family came from Samdrup selling handmade Tibetan incense and sometimes working for construction sites. But two years later, his wife was suddenly stricken by heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Her lengthy treatment and the need to raise three children turned the otherwise happy family of five into a severely impoverished household.

"Deducting the high medical expenses and other fees, my family could only have about 1,000 yuan ($144) left at the end of those years. We felt somehow desperate, and didn't know what to do," Samdrup recalled.

In 2016, under the government policy guidance for poverty alleviation, Samdrup applied for a subsidy for his project involving a workshop to make Tibetan incense. The government invested 309,800 yuan to build a new Tibetan incense workshop in Gyalmed village, equipped with cutting machines, shredders and other equipment. In September of the same year, the incense workshop officially went into operation.

"Without the government's help, I don't think my family could have gotten through the hard times," said Samdrup.

At the beginning, Samdrup shopped around for sales opportunities for his Tibetan incense products in downtown Nyingchi and reached cooperation agreements with nine handicraft shops in Lhasa, Nyingchi and other cities in Tibet. He also registered on e-commerce platforms in an effort to open up more channels for sales.

Besides, to produce incense products that are in line with customer preferences, Samdrup continued to solicit feedback from tourists for suggestions on aroma, shape and packaging, and also conducted field visits to Tibetan incense markets in other counties to continuously improve the formula of the Tibetan incense he made.

Samdrup's hard work finally paid off. In 2016, the net income of the plant reached 50,000 yuan, and in 2019, the number was at least double that amount.

After living a relatively comfortable life, the first thing he did was help other impoverished households in his village.

Samdrup signed a dividend agreement with the six poorest households in Gyalmed village, where the annual dividends are distributed at 6 percent of the total profits of at least 309,800 yuan each year. Starting from 2017, he began giving the six poorest families an annual dividend of 3,100 yuan.

Samdrup not only hires them to work at his plant, but also teaches them the craftsmanship of making Tibetan incense, considered one of the "Tibetan Treasures". "Teaching someone to fish is better than giving them fish, " he said.

"When I was in trouble, I got help from our country and government, so when my life got better, I thought I could lend a hand to those in need," said Samdrup, emphasizing his desire to do something for the country in turn.

"I want to help more villagers in need," said Samdrup, "I'm full of hope for the future of the village and the whole Tibet autonomous region, and I believe our lives will become better and better."

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