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Story and Photos by Zhao Zhiming | Yunnan-Guizhou Regional Program Officer | Heifer China

Built in 2004, Mingle Village is an immigrant village now home to 154 farmers from six impoverished villages and towns in the Longyang District, Baoshan City, and Yunnan Province.

To help ensure farmers' production and livelihoods, the local government allotted farmers an average of two hillside acres each and invested about $490,000 to build a large irrigation project. However, the mountain's steep slopes are vulnerable to landslides, and the original 4,659-foot diversion canal collapsed. The community's numerous repairs were ineffective, leaving farmers without additional irrigation after just one year.

In 2009 Yunnan encountered a heavy drought and Mingle Village's 1,711 acres of farmland lost 1,500 acres of crops, resulting in an approximate loss of $170,000. Farmers then had to rely on part-time jobs to recoup some income.

In 2011, the China Merchants Charitable Foundation (CMCF) funded a Heifer project to assist Mingle Village. After hearing of the community self-help group and local government's efforts, CMCF decided to replace the original three-sided canal with a steel pipe. The pipe was completed in December 2012, with a total cost of about $50,800. The local government and Mingle Village collected about half the funds, and CMCF provided the rest.

"After water can run through the canal to the land, it will solve the problem of irrigation of nearly 3,000 acres of land, which includes those of our village," said Yang Yunhai, deputy director of the Wulai village committee.

The village has planted 1,500 acres of coffee and 600 acres of sugarcane. In the past, the yield of sugarcane was only about 2,000 to 4,000 pounds, and farmers hope the canal will double their harvest.

"The past yield of coffee was less than 100 kilograms (about 220 pounds) per acre, but I believe that next year it will reach 200-400 kilograms (about 440-880 pounds) per acre, just like the field that can be irrigated," Yunhai said. "Calculated in this way, we will get an additional 250 to 300 yuan (about $40 or $50) per acre, which brings new hope to our whole village."

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Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.