A week after the observance of the World Water Day in Singapore, Mercy Relief (MR)completed its latest “Water for Life & Livelihood” (WLL) project at Tao Gou village, in the remote mountains of Wenxi county.

Tao Gou, one of China’s poorest villages located 1000 metres above sea level, suffers from serious water shortage due to low precipitation, droughts and its high altitude.  Villagers had to walk down 2 to 4 kilometres daily to reach the bottom of the valley to fetch water to serve their drinking and farming needs.  Most of the 216 households require at least 2 tripsdaily just to gather sufficient water, taking up more than half of precious daylight hours, leaving little time for economic productivity.  This severely affected farmers’ output and earnings while incurring the opportunity cost of engaging in other income-generating prospects.

(left) Part of the supply pipeline which brings water  from the source at the foot of the valley to the storage tanks near the mountain top. 

(centre) Villagers crowding around an underground water storage tank used to store water for distribution and prevent water from evaporation.

(right) Close to 10,000 litres of clear and clean water is pumped 1,000 meters up the mountain each hour. 

Partnering the Shanxi Poverty Alleviation Bureau (SPAB) and its local county counterpart, Singapore-born MR identified a perennial spring water source (at least 20 years of supply) at the mountain foot, and established a 17.6km piping network to pump and distribute 9.5m3 of clean and safe water (certified by local water department) to all the households. The SGD183,000 project included the construction of 6 large water storage tanks with a total capacity of 360m3 located at various elevated points which would then distribute water using gravitational force. An irrigation system has been added to water 500mu (336,400m2 or 40 football fields) of agricultural plot for communal benefit.

A management committee was formed to manage and maintain the water and irrigation systems, funded by the villagerswho pay RMB2 (S$0.5) for a gallon supply of water.  The committee’s chairman, who is also Tao Gou village’s head, Mr Li Guo Zhu, remarked with rejoice, “Central China where Shanxi is located is known as ‘shi nian jiu han’ (10years, 9 droughts).   This contribution from Singaporeans not only allow easy access to clean water by the turn of our taps, it also provides our farmers to be more efficient in tending to their fields and freeing other family members to seek other jobs which would bolster household incomes.  Just as important, it removes from our elderly, the arduous physical burden ofwater collection.”

Access to better quality and quantity of water has also triggered and motivated the villagers to pool their monies together to build 8 massive chicken coops as alternative and supplementary incomes.  Each coop costs RMB20,000 (S$4,000) to build, and can house 5000 chickens.  The chicken farmers would receive chicks from a private corporation, rear them for45 days and sell them back to the corporation for a profit of RMB2 (S$0.40) for each chicken.

(left) Tao Gou village head Li Guo Zhu, 33, shared on the villagers’ relief from past anxieties, but who now anticipate the future with enthusiasm and optimism    

(centre) Two generations apart, gracing a tap together. Village elders now have to walk only 20-30 metres from their houses to access water. 

(right) One of the 8 chicken coops which were recently constructed to cater towards an alternative source of income.

MR Chief Executive Hassan Ahmad, who graced the ceremony, commented, “Water represents life and continuous progress through livelihood enhancement.  With the increased income, villagers are now able to upgrade their lives for better comfort, hygiene and health which we hope would be the springboard, not only out of poverty but, towards sustainable progressions through generations. This project underlines MR’s holistic approach in addressing water and livelihood issues as part of its sustainable development programme’s philosophy –to equip and empower disadvantaged and impoverished communities towards a better life.”

With this latest project, MR has completed 5 sustainable development projects in the rural and impoverished areas of Shanxi province over the last 3 years, focusing on water, sanitation, shelter and sustainable livelihood.  A total ofSGD1.5million was spent to complete the 5 projects, with 30% of the costs jointly-borne by the provincial government (through the SPAB) and the local communities.

(left) MR’s CE Hassan receiving the token of friendship and appreciation from Communist Party’s (Wenxi County) Deputy Secretary Lu.   

(centre) A 72-year-old villager extending his gratitude profusely.  Looking on is Wenxi  County’s Mayor Huang (standing 2nd from right).

(right) CCP Deputy Secretary Lu reading aloud the project’s brief from a hand-engraved commemorative stele.  Next to CE Hassan is Ms Chang, Deputy Director of the SPAB.

About Mercy Relief

Mercy Relief is a Singaporean humanitarian organisation which engages in both disaster relief and sustainable development programmes. It was established in 2003 as an independent non-governmental humanitarian charity responding to the human tragedies in Asia. Mercy Relief’s aid programme focuses on providing timely and effective assistance to disaster-stricken communities and has maintained the delivery of emergency aid within 72 hours from the point of appeal for assistance.  

In the past 12 years, Mercy Relief has disbursed over S$32 million in aid across 40 disaster relief and 53 sustainable development initiatives. Mercy Relief has impacted an aggregate of 2 million lives in 24 countries and areas, namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, DPR Korea, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Laos, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal,  Pakistan, Palestine, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Yemen.

For more information, you may call us at 6514 6322 or email corporateaffairs@mercyrelief.org