Despite its booming economy, China’s rural areas remain in deep poverty. Living in harsh, mountainous terrains, these communities suffer severe drought during the dry season, walking for miles to collect water, and continuously struggling to cope with high levels of food poverty. Our work has therefore focussed on relieving food poverty and providing greater stability to local communities.
Over the last 30 years, China has made significant improvements in addressing economic disparity and food insecurity. 500 million people across the country have been lifted out of extreme poverty. However, this growing nation of 1.38 billion continues to suffer from wide-scale environmental problems and income equality.
Whilst the cities continue to develop, poverty remains significant, particularly those living in rural areas, often in the west of China. With poor infrastructure such as roads, health, and education facilities, life for these rural populations is incredibly difficult. Many people are unable to read or write, meaning they have little hope of getting a better job.
Many families are reliant on agriculture. However with the risk of natural disasters – and the extra pressure of climate change – and drought and floods, the loss of grain production is estimated to be around 20 million tonnes a year, resulting in food insecurity for many families.
Life in China can be a struggle for many families:
- 26 million people in China live on less than $1.09 (£1.40) a day (World Bank, 2016)
- Children in rural areas are 3 to 4 times more likely to suffer from stunting than those in urban areas (UN World Food Programme, 2016)
- Over 186 million people are vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters (UN World Food Programme, 2017)
- Over 200 million smallholder farmers live in China’s rural regions (UN World Food Programme, 2017)
Islamic Relief in China
We began work in China in response to flooding in the Shaanxi province in 2002. As well as providing emergency assistance, we also helped communities build new homes once the crisis was over.
In Yongjing county in Gansu province where drought plagues communities each year, we have built rainwater harvesting systems, capturing the clean rain during the wet season, and storing it for the annual dry months. We built catchment systems with storage cellars along with irrigation sources, so that the water captured can be channelled to help grow crops. This way, a water solution also became a viable food solution.