Spring Harvest of Debt for Parched Farms in Southern China

The worst drought in perhaps a century is hitting Yunnan and other areas of southern China, decimating crops and destroying farmers’ livelihoods. The New York Times reports:

This drought is southern China’s worst, climatologists say, in 80 to 100 years. From Yunnan eastward through Sichuan and Guizhou Provinces and the Guangxi region, the soil on roughly 30,000 square miles of farmland is too dry to plant crops, the vice minister of water resources, Liu Ning, said last Wednesday. Around 24 million people are short of water. Agricultural losses already total $3.5 billion.

Many areas have not had rain since at least October. Here in Luliang County, about 70 miles east of Yunnan’s capital, Kunming, no rain has fallen since August. The drought’s effects have also reached beyond China, stirring up tensions with its neighbors over energy and environmental concerns.

For those like Mr. Huang whose crops and animals are starved for water, the suffering is palpable. Already he has had to borrow money to send his 7-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter to school. Looking for work in the city is out of the question, he said; he cannot read, and leaving his family would wipe out any chance to plant crops should the rains return.

With virtually no money from the spring harvest, he said, his only plan to repay his debt is to kill the family pig and sell the meat.

See also “An Environmentalist’s View on China’s Drought” from the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog, and this report from Al Jazeera:

April 4, 2010 9:21 PM
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