Yunnan Province, located in the South Westernmost corner of China, is home to over 42 million people. It is a mountainous region, making agriculture—Yunnan’s foremost economic sector—extremely difficult. Growing fields are restricted to the few upland plains and terraced hillsides. Furthermore, what little arable land available is used for cash crops, such as tobacco, coffee, tea and cut flowers, rather than for subsistence farming. Like many under-developed regions around the world, Yunnan Province falls victim to the system of cash cropping. Regions such as these that rely on cash crops for their export value, are dependent upon a fluctuating global market. This benefits developed countries and more often than not, is quite unfair to small scale, rural farmers. By exporting goods with little monetary return, the cycle of poverty continues. To make matters worse, there has been a widespread drought affecting approximately 20 million people in Southwestern China. In Yunnan alone the drought has damaged 3 million hectares of farmland. Crops, however, take a backburner to survival when it comes to the availability of water. Villagers, primarily women and children, walk an average of two and a half hours a day to fetch their weight in river water for their families. With no way to purify it, this water is the main cause for the prevalence of dysentery, diarrhea and other waterborne diseases.
In Shigala village, a remote, impoverished community near the border of Vietnam, up to six hours a day is spent collecting water. In an attempt to address this problem as well as eradicate dysentery in the village, the Christ Lutheran Church from Costa Mesa, CA and the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation (CWEF) set out to build a water catchment system in April 2010. CWEF, in partnership with local governments and other organizations, is dedicated to improving the lives of rural communities in Asia in a number of ways. An important feature of the water project in Shigala was the implementation of health education programs, teaching proper use of clean water and how to break the cycle of dysentery. In addition to learning these essential facts, each adult and child in the village was provided with a hygiene kit to help improve basic health. The devotion of CWEF members, Pastor Mike Gibson from Christ Lutheran and Robert Allen, cousin of long time Waterhope supporter Craig Stadler, were key elements in the success of this project. We at Waterhope consider ourselves very lucky to get the opportunity to work with so many amazing people who are committed to serving others. We can only hope that our efforts will help lighten the load that burdens so many of our brothers and sisters.