For many families throughout the world, the spring days when family gardens are planted are a cherished annual tradition. As seeds are sown, loved ones take time to talk, laugh and share thoughts. With any luck, the food grown in the family plot will nourish them later that year. The day a garden established is one of happiness and hope.
Unfortunately, the tradition is threatened — even disappearing — in many rural areas of China. About 150 million people, approximately 12 percent of China’s population, are migrating to larger cities for the opportunity to grab hold of the country’s unfolding economic dream. That dream is most often elusive, but still empties rural villages and disrupts centuries-old ways of life.
But Yang Jianrong is staying home in his tiny hillside village of Xinfa, thanks in part to a loan he received through a Mercy Corps partner.
Mercy Corps, through the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), is working with families to find solutions that keep them from drifting away from their homes and local economies. The Rural Community Development for Poverty Alleviation initiative in the Liuzhi region of Guizhou Province — where Xinfa is located — is helping create viable income opportunities for more than 8,000 people.
Yang, 31, lives with his wife and three-year-old son in the tiny village of Xinfa. He received his first loan through CFPA in 2003, which he put toward the purchase of a motorcycle.
“People were always needing things carried between villages, so I started out carrying materials,” he said. “Then people started asking me for rides, and thought that would be another good way to make money to support my family.”
Over the last few years, Yang’s business has continued to grow. He has since taken out and repaid four loans to finance the expansion his motorcycle service.
“It’s been easy to get and pay back loans with CFPA,” he said. “Getting a lump sum at the beginning of the loan has really help me get things started faster.” Yang’s successful business is keeping him with his family in Xinfa. He’s used profits from his business, which serves the entire township, to purchase livestock including two cows, a sow and ten piglets. He’s committed to staying here, in his ancestral home, and helping rebuild the local economy.
And, today is a symbolic step as well as a practical one: he’s planting a spring garden with his young family. With son Chaochao running circles around them, Yang and his wife Li scale the rocky hill to the plot of land where they’ll grow their household crops. It’s a beautiful place, with wild strawberries lacing the slopes and a view of Guizhou’s limestone mountains unfolding like a dream below them.
The three of them talk, laugh and frolic as they prepare the soil. Chaochao — whose name, Yang tells us, means “super super” — entertains them with cute, playful songs. Soon, they’re dropping pepper, peanut, sunflower and soybean seeds into holes and covering them up with rich, black dirt.
The planting of the family garden is an investment in the future. With help from Mercy Corps and CFPA, families like Yang Jianrong’s will keep the tradition for years to come.