Hunan University: Improving living environments as an alternative approach to poverty alleviation


In line with the arrangements of the MOE and the Poverty Alleviation Office of the State Council, Hunan University began to design and implement poverty relief plans targeting Longhui County in Hunan Province in 2013.

By choosing the Tiger Mountain area in Longhui County as a pilot, the university studied common and specific problems facing poverty-stricken areas, and proposed a “building block” approach to the improvement of rural built environments, integrating overall village planning, anti-pollution treatment of rural wastes and sewage, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, the “toilet revolution” and other schemes. Over the five years, this systematic application of solutions has significantly improved the living environment in the Tiger Mountain area. In 2017, local tourism and innovative agriculture generated 31.7 million RMB, bringing the county closer to its goal of poverty eradication.

Between November 2015 and January 2018, the university’s project team helped design and modify the environment improvement plans tailored to Congmudang, Datuo and Caoyuan villages respectively, with measures including: strengthening drainage and sewage management for Congmudang; furthering the design of resettlement areas in Datuo and researching on the intensive utilization of land; and coordinating the protection of plateau reservoirs, landscaping and tourism for Caoyuan.

The team organized several seminars and workshops to raise the awareness of villagers in using environment-friendly technologies, improving hygiene and sanitation of their neighborhoods, with a view to promoting the sustainable development of rural areas. It also studied the possibility of renovating buildings by using new materials and changing structures to equip them with modern facilities while maintaining their traditional styles. Over the past five years, the team promoted the improved brick and wood structure and proposed a building construction module of a “frame structure with flexible framework to arrange furniture more freely”, which were successfully applied in the renovation projects in local primary schools and residential houses.

In dealing with sewage, the team proposed a method that combines primary treatment using three-chamber septic tanks with secondary treatment, namely recycling and reusing of sewage in wetlands and fish ponds. In tackling waste from farms and rural factories, the team designed an overall reuse and integrated development plans, considering multiple production factors such as land, water, seeds and fertilizer, which produced remarkable economic, social and environmental benefits.