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Harsh life for China’s hill farmers

Posted by Author on December 16, 2007

BBC News, Dec. 15, 2007-

As China prepares for the 2008 Olympics, we hear a lot about the economic boom which has transformed the big cities. But BBC Business presenter Peter Day discovers that for villagers, life has not changed that much.

The farmer Ma Yu Bao is an old man.

He and his wife have seen many winters in their cave-like home carved out of a hill in the Ningxia autonomous Hui region in the middle of China.

But this coming winter will be one of the worst in his scattered settlement of Go Jong, or “Deep Ditch” village.

For the past two years, there have been no spring rains in these dry hills, mainly populated by members of a Muslim minority.

Twice in succession, the harvests have failed.

No wheat, no maize, just a handful of sheep for the Ma family to live on, plus help from relatives and a government welfare payment of 200 yuan (£13) a month which only the very poorest are eligible for.

“Life is very hard,” say the Mas, in a fatalistic way.

But their little farmyard looks out on one of the wonders of the world: a mountain landscape that is breathtakingly, picture-book China.

Their cave in the hillside is carved out of loess, the silt dumped by the desert winds over vast areas of the country to a depth of hundreds of feet.

The dry crumbly loess is shaped by occasional rains into fantastic gorges and spectacular cliffs.

And the ingenious Chinese, always short of farmland, have spent generations slicing terraces out of the fragile mountains by hand, making tier above tier of land cultivable to the very top of the hills.

Farmable, maybe, but not very productive in these arid conditions.

Two vicious droughts are merely the latest nasty reminder of the hardship of life in the hills, so far away from the new luxury in China’s booming cities……. (more details from BBC News)

One Response to “Harsh life for China’s hill farmers”

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