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No time to grieve for busy farmers
12 June 2008



Farmers in areas battered by the May 12 earthquake have returned to their fields to harvest grain and sow for the new season.

In the village of Zhangjiaheba in Gansu province, they used a section of open ground occupied by tents to thresh wheat and collect grain.

Wang Rangqin, a 42-year-old farmer, said his father died after being hit by flying rocks in the quake, but he had no time to grieve.

"There are four mouths in my family and they still have to eat and live," he said.

He moved his wife and two children to a tent, and started the harvesting.

Villagers cannot afford not to harvest wheat, as it is a staple, Wang Yiming, head of the village government, said.

About 50 families live in the village, which is about 200 km from Wenchuan. Many of their houses were damaged or collapsed.

The earthquake did little damage to cropland but buried large quantities of grain reserves, Wang said.

Flour, rice and tents were sent to the village after the quake, but mountainous roads and landslides impeded relief efforts. The farmers said they had to depend on themselves.

"We can't just lie here and wait for government aid. The earthquake was a natural disaster, but if we left the wheat to rot in the soil, that would be an evil human deed," he said.

In Zhangjiaheba, wheat is grown on about 40 hectares of land, which yields about 20,000 kg a year.

"The more we harvest, the more fields we will have to grow autumn crops and the more food we'll have for the winter," Wang said.

Nationwide, the earthquake damaged more than 33,000 hectares of farmland, including more than 10,000 hectares of wheat and rape and 20,000 hectares of vegetables, Wei Chao'an, vice-agriculture minister, said.

Irrigation systems were destroyed in some areas, and up to 100,000 hectares of rice paddy might have to be used to grow alternative crops, he said.

After the agriculture ministry issued a notice to local governments to help farmers with their harvests, village officials and soldiers from nearby areas were dispatched. Fertilizer and farm equipment were also brought in to aid the harvest and seeding.

He Chunhui, a farmer from Wenxian county, Gansu, said he was trying to get on with the business of farming.

"Life is getting back to normal. With a good harvest we should recoup our losses."

(China Daily June 12, 2008)


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