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Profile: A cotton farmer keeping pace with the times in China's Xinjiang

by Xinhua writers Zhang Zhongkai and Li Zhihao

URUMQI, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- Kulesi Rehim, 54, spent nearly half of his life growing cotton in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. However, locals regard him as a businessman.

"They call me 'Baiha,' which is similar to the pronunciation of department store," said Kulesi, who is a resident of south Xinjiang's cotton hub Yuli County.

Kulesi's nickname stems from working as a shop assistant at a public department store after graduating from a vocational school in the late 1980s when China's reform and opening-up drive started to sweep across the country.

Through hard work and having a keen sense of emerging trends, he soon rose to become the store director.

Yuli started to promote reclaiming wasteland to boost agricultural production in the 1990s, and Kulesi was one of the first locals to heed the call.

He started in 1995 with about 3 hectares of barren fields to plant cotton. In 2000, Kulesi became a full-time cotton farmer as the local government encouraged development in the private sector.

"It was a bumpy start for a new hand like me," said Kulesi, who later built houses in the cotton fields to take care of the natural fiber.

His cotton fields kept growing in the area thanks to his devotion and a pioneering spirit to try the latest technologies.

In 2006, Kulesi, managing some 46.7 hectares of cotton fields, became the first cotton farmer in Yuli to try drip irrigation. The efficiency of the technology further expanded his cotton fields.

He later led local farmers in using machinery cotton pickers in 2016 and using agricultural drones to spray pesticides and defoliants in 2019. Now Kulesi is the owner of over 86 hectares of cotton.

Twenty-five years of cotton growing has brought Kulesi a prosperous life. He built a well-furnished, large house of more than 200 square meters near his cotton fields, with an imported 65-inch-screen TV set sitting in the living room.

However, Kulesi's career focus has shifted away from the cotton fields. In 2018, he contracted with a professional cotton farmer to manage his cotton fields and made a foray into the tourism sector.

Yuli, located near China's largest desert and featuring the unique Lop Nur culture, has seen robust tourism growth in recent years. The county received nearly 2.15 million visitors and raked in 375 million yuan (about 56 million U.S. dollars) in 2019, spiking about 53 percent and 89 percent year on year, respectively.

Kulesi has invested about 6 million yuan to build a folk custom garden in the county to offer catering and accommodation for visitors.

"Hard work pays off, and most importantly, you have to keep pace with the times to seize emerging opportunities," he said. Enditem