FIRST Lady Esther Lungu on Saturday was a surprise guest of a small Chinese village, Bei Reng on the outskirts of Boao city where she was treated to a variety of Chinese culture and traditions in the form of dance, food and artefacts.
Mrs Lungu, in the company of Chinese First Lady, Peng Li Yun, Ugandan First Lady Janet Kataha Museveni, Austria’s Margit Fische and Anita Yadan, the daughter of Nepolese president, paid a surprise visit to the once-impoverished village of Bei Reng soon after the official opening of the 2015 Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) conference.
Bei Reng village has been transformed into a culturally and traditionally rich tourist destination and has over the years been attracting tourists from within and outside China with its earnings exponentially having changed the lives of many a villager.
The First Lady told the Daily Nation here that she was impressed with the manner Bei Reng village was organised and modernised and pledged that she would canvass that the Zambian Government begins investing in the rural population.
Mrs Lungu said Zambian women had a lot of talent and that given the opportunity to maximise their gifts they would significantly contribute to the country’s economic development and assist in reducing poverty.
She said it was encouraging to see the villagers in Bei Reng using their talents and that abilities to manufacture traditional and cultural products for sale.
“What I have observed is that the village has been modernised with the help of government and the people are not lacking. They have made themselves very productive and are producing a variety of products which they sell to tourists. The village is self-sustaining and the environment protects the girl child from vices such as early marriages and other immoral activities. Zambian women have the talent and ability to do the same and I will see how I can persuade our Government to invest in our rural women because that is a sure way of reducing poverty,” Mrs Lungu said.
The First Lady was hopeful that the Zambian women who had accompanied her had learnt something about how hard working Chinese women were and would embark on maximising their talents.
She said China had become the fastest and one of the world’s biggest economies by investing in skills and hard work and that although Zambia could not develop at the same speed with the Asian country, there was always a beginning.
And Mrs Geng Hailing, wife of Chinese Ambassador to Zambia, said it was important for Zambia and China to continue remaining-all weather friends in all-areas of social and economic development for the good of the citizens of both countries.
Mrs Hailing said the diplomatic relations between Zambia and China had been emphasised by President Lungu’s decision to make the Asian country his first destination after assuming the presidency.
She said China had a lot of respect for Zambia and that the country had a lot of potential to achieve its maximum economic development agenda if it continued learning from what China had achieved since 1949 when the country was among the top 10 countries in the world in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Nurtured by the palm and rubber trees, beautified by the well-tendered natural vegetation, Bei Reng village is habitat to many poor Chinese nationals who have been taught the art of hard work and conservation and are earning their living from weaving baskets and moulding clay pots and other artefacts.
The village is also fondly called “the urban resident park and tourist paradise” because most Chinese from the cities had been flocking to the village which boasts of educating its children but have had no school.
The village provides a rare atmosphere of tranquillity and serenity to souls that seek panorama created by the natural and sentimental environment that is a combination of awesome people and their traditions. Bei Reng village headman Li Zhaoliang said here that he was delighted to have had his village visited by the Zambian First Lady in the company of the wife of President Xi Jinping.
Mr Zhaoliang said until Saturday, Bei Reng village had never been visited by high profile personalities at the level of wives of presidents and thanked the Zambian First Lady for having thought of touring a village that did not even know its own leadership.
“What we have seen today in this village has never happened in our history and I am extremely happy that the Zambian First Lady Madam Esther Lungu, our First Lady Madam Peng Li Yun along with the First Lady from Uganda Janet Museveni and Margit Fische of Austria has found time to visit us. We were once an impoverished village and were almost marginalised and excluded from our own country but things have since changed with the help of Government,” Mr Zhaoliang said.