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A woman plants grapes at a vineyard in Laoying village, Xiaojin county, Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province. XIN WEN/CHINA DAILY

Living standards are rising for people in a mountainous region of Southwest China after their remote settlements were connected to the outside world, as Xin Wen reports from the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province.

Lan Guohua used to plant corn and potatoes in Laoying, a village that sits at an elevation of 2,500 meters in Xiaojin county, Sichuan province.

At the age of 55, he never expected that he could double his income by raising yaks, but that"s what happened after the local government built a road to connect the isolated settlement with the outside world.

The village, in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, has a population of 3,000 people, 80 percent of whom are members of the Tibetan ethnic group.

It used to be nicknamed majiao, or "Can"t feel your feet", because outsiders had to walk along a steep path that zigzagged up the mountain to reach it, which left their feet numb.

The area around the village has an average elevation of 2,000 m.

The mountainous terrain not only made it difficult to grow crops, but also meant farmers had to travel long distances along dirt paths to transport their produce to the market in Xiaojin.

Anything left unsold at the end of the day had to be carried back along the same paths.

Things changed in 2013 when the asphalt road was completed.

The improved infrastructure allowed access for businesses. Also, advanced farming techniques were brought to the area, raising living standards and lifting local people out of poverty.

In 2014, President Xi Jinping called for more efforts to construct, maintain, protect and manage rural roads to provide greater help for countryside residents.

In response, the Xiaojin government established a special fund to expand its road-construction program.

It provided more than 5 million yuan ($800,000), and set a goal of building or renovating 1,400 kilometers of rural roads in the county. By 2016, about 131.5 km of roads had been completed.

"The road contributed to the area"s industrial development and provided a special marketing channel for agricultural produce," said Yao Qijie, head of Xiaojin.