The sheer innovation of Mercy Relief’s development project has seen the farming community of Loufan County take their first steps out of poverty –through the application of a gravity-driven rainwater-harvesting crop irrigation system.

The Singapore-born NGO held an inauguration earlier today at Laomaping Village, one of the project locations; the event was graced by Mercy Relief’s Chairman, Mr T K Udairam, and officials from Shanxi Poverty Alleviation Bureau.

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Inauguration ceremony underway.

Loufan, where farming is a primary source of income, is one of the most impoverished counties in China, with 80% of its farmland situated on hilly terrain –unfavourable for farming. The situation is exacerbated by low rainfall (400mm per year), a declining water table and culminating in a low annual average per capita income of 1,200 yuan.

The local government had initiated an effort to improve the situation by constructing a 5km stretch of tarmac through a vast plateau of agricultural land (2.3km2) surrounded by the villages of Laomaping, Changjiapo, Shangmiaowan and Getashang. Due to lack of resources, the development of irrigation facilities was halted.

Beginning in September 2008, Mercy Relief worked in tandem with Chinese project partners Shanxi Poverty Alleviation Bureau and constructed 2km of concrete-lined drainage ditches along both sides of the road strip and 0.7km of water channels for rainwater catchment. 36 sedimentation pools were also built to filter the collected water before it is stored in 36 underground water cellars. This system minimises the use of electricity by employing only gravity to transport the water all the way to the cellars.

MR staff and SPAB officials surveying the underground water.

A comprehensive 5km –long irrigation network pumping water to 1,200 irrigation outlets was installed, keeping the fields watered and conditions feasible for productive harvest yields.

The new irrigation system has boosted crop harvest yields by leaps and bounds.

Training on operation and maintenance of the new irrigation facility was provided for the villagers, who were already actively involved in needs assessment, project design, implementation and management. They contributed about 219,000 yuan worth of labour to the construction of project infrastructure, upping the level of community ownership.

Completed in June last year, the S$360,000 project is estimated to boost household income by 2.5 times in five years. The beneficiaries number 2.024 villagers from 558 families from the four villages.

Mr TK Udairam commented that “this rainwater-harvesting programme epitomised the effectiveness of development initiatives characterised by ‘maximum yield’ from ‘minimum fuss’, the hallmark that Mercy Relief strives to achieve for all its projects.”

This project underlines Mercy Relief’s holistic approach to addressing livelihood issues as part of its sustainable development efforts in China.

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

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