Three-year-old Zhang Ming Xing slept soundly as we visited with his grandparents, Peng Guowen and Liu Haiying, in their home in Yangebo Township, China. Zhang Ming Xings parents follow the common practice of seeking work in larger cities, in this case Beijing, to help support the family.
Weichang County is the poorest area of Hebei Province, with annual average income of less than $185 USD. Project participants here are receiving beef heifers and training in community development, vegetable production, and soil management and conservation.
Earlier in the day, Peng Guowen received a cow during a handover ceremony with Heifer International and Elanco. We raised cattle before, but not for long, he said.
The fragile environment here at the headwaters of the Luanhe River provides a significant challenge for farmers, with six months of snow cover annually. Additionally, there are 90-100 frost-free days with a yearly average temperature of minus five degrees Celsius. Sand blowing in from the Mongolian desert contributes to a lack of vegetation. The Chinese government is investing in numerous tree planting initiatives to lessen degradation of the grassland.
Peng Guowen has purchased four cows in addition to the cow he has received from Heifer. He is building the shelter that will be crucial for the animals well-being when the long winter returns. Feeding animals in the cowshed versus grazing has a secondary benefit of protecting the fragile grasslands. Peng Guowen also will plant grass in early June and is growing corn to help feed his cows.
Peng Guowens goal is to enlarge the number of cattle, to further expand the income potential for his family. Toward the end of the visit, we asked what the gift of a cow would mean for his grandson.
His response, Happiness.
Special thanks to Jia Ruting and Song Jinping for translation and project information.