By He Lei in Sichuan
Living in a tiny dark cabin, sleeping on a wooden bed beside his most important assets, seven cows - that’s been 58-year old Wang Zhengping’s daily life for the last year.
As the Chinese New Year festival drew near in early 2011, two cows, which he had already been fattening for one year and hoped to sell for a good price, were stolen. It hit him and his family hard in both pocket book and spirit.
“We needed to sell the two cows to have enough money to live on for the next year. In the first couple of days, I went to each village in our township without sleep, and tried to find our stolen cattle.” Wang said.
“I did not have money to buy calves again. This April, I heard about the microcredit project and went to apply, and soon after I got 10,000CNY (about 1400 CHF) credit. Immediately I bought three calves.” Mr Wang pointed at the cattle in the bush a few meters away.
Supported by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Mianzhu branch of China Red Cross Society now is implementing a five year microcredit project to help the people in the quake-affected area whose livelihoods remain fragile.
One of them is Li Guanghong. He and his family moved into their new house two years ago, but he has still not been able to clear of all his house debt. Li is the only breadwinner in the family, as his wife and his mother are both disabled.
To reconstruct their house after earthquake, they borrowed CNY 50,000 (about CHF 7,200) from the local bank: “All depends on our farmland,” he said. “I have no idea how I can pay my house loan back.”
In July 2011, he received CNY 15,000 credit from the project (about CHF 2,100) and began to raise pigs. “This year, the market is not as good as we estimated. But as I have the business here, I can make some money and begin to repay. The interest on the loan from Red Cross project is lower than that of commercial bank, which allows me more flexibility.”
The microcredit project not only helps people to reduce their vulnerability, but also it supports people to invest in their own businesses and plan for growth.
It is easy to find Zhong Changing’s little grocery store in a corner of his village. In the 2008 earthquake, he lost his left leg and could not go outside for work. His whole family lives on the income from his little store.
“I wanted to sell pesticide and fertilizer which can make more profit, but I didn’t have money to purchase them. There was no way to borrow money. The requirements of the bank were too harsh for me. And borrowing from relatives and friends was also difficult,” Zhong said.
“When I heard I could get some money at lower interest rates, I was quite excited.” In July 2011, Zhong got money from the project, and begin to expand his business. “My business is better than before. And I now feel less stressed out. After I finish my refund, I plan to apply for a larger amount of credit, and buy more goods and equipment,” Zhong said with a big smile.
The Chinese old saying, ‘Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ and this describes the strategy of the micro-credit project which the Red Cross Society of China is implementing in Mianzhu county, Sichuan. It started with training for more than 6,000 people, including 1,400 disabled.
“Through this five year plan, we hope to help the community - especially vulnerable groups - build sustainable livelihoods, and help individuals put the economic crisis behind them. Some even run their own businesses for the benefit of others,” said Baktiar Mambetov, IFRC’s East Asia regional sustainable development coordinator.