Remembering the Spring, Hoping for the Future

For hundreds of years, Chinese wisdom has advocated gratefulness through the proverb, “When you drink the water, remember the spring.” For those of us who enjoy constant access to water through the tap, we rarely consider the originating source. For young mother, Jifen, walking to the spring is a recent memory and drinking water from a faucet is still a new luxury.

Infrastructures have gradually been introduced to villages in Lufeng county, Yunnan province, in southwestern China. Like many ethnic minority groups, the Miao people live in mountainous areas where arable farmland is scarce. They live in small villages that are often isolated from larger towns. Fortunately, for Jifen and her husband, a cement road was built within the last few years, replacing the dirt and muddy pathways to the village.

Today, Jifen is especially grateful. Every day, she still remembers the spring. Before the installation of a drinking water system in her village, Jifen made five trips per day to and from a spring to carry water to her home—totaling 1.25 miles a day. The water was used for their own drinking, for household needs, and for watering a small number of pigs, sheep, and cattle.

Jifen, who has an elementary education, takes care of her toddler-age son and helps her husband to raise their livestock and to farm radishes, corn, and rice. They try to sell livestock for income, but find it challenging to sell the animals at a fair price. Jifen’s husband used to work outside the village. Due to their son’s weak health, he returned to the village to help with the farm work and to try to earn extra income through the livestock sales.

The village’s drinking water system was completed on Oct. 15, 2018. A grant from CWEF helped the village to afford this life-changing infrastructure. Families from the village participated in the labor to dig the cisterns and pipe trenches. Before the water system, about half of the village families had solar water heaters in their homes, but without a piped water source the heaters were seldom used. Now, the availability of solar-heated hot water has dramatically improved day to day life for taking a bath, washing clothes, and feeding animals.

As Jifen looks at her young son, she hopes that he will “be healthy, learn a lot, and become a good person.” She envisions a future where he can earn money and help them fulfil the dream of building a new home in the village. Their livelihood should continue to improve as they feel the impact of a ready and reliable water source. Irrigation systems are already being considered, which would allow families like Jifen and her husband to grow new types of crops for sale.

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