Mushroom magic brings profits for earthquake survivor

Published: 5 February 2016 2:12 CET

By Sun Yan (Vicky), IFRC

When Li Xudong and his family lost their home during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, they struggled to make ends meet. The family was forced to live apart. Li’s son and daughter-in-law left their village to look for better opportunities, while his five-year-old daughter was sent away to live with Li’s parents.

It wasn’t until Li received a subsidized loan through the Red Cross livelihoods project that he and his family could once again look forward to a better future. Through this project, which was supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Red Cross Society of China helped to fund the establishment of small businesses for around 800 families in the quake-affected Guihua village in Mianzhu (Sichuan Province, China).

Before the disaster, Li worked in farms and took other part-time jobs to support his family. “I spent all my savings building a new house and I had to borrow 30,000 RMB (USD 4,560 EUROS 4,159) from the local bank to be able to finish it,” he said. “Almost every family in the village took loans from the bank and many of them are still working hard to repay them.”

Struggling with his own loan, Li worked in construction sites, putting in long hours to make as much money as he could. When most of the reconstruction projects ended, it became hard to find enough work. The birth of a granddaughter added to the financial strains and Li knew that he needed a more stable income.

“I thought that maybe growing mushrooms would be a good business because people in Sichuan love to use them in hot pot dishes,” Li said. In 2013, despite his basic farming equipment and facilities, he decided to try to grow eryngii, a tasty and popular mushroom. He wanted to expand his business but had no money for the necessary investment. That was when Li applied for 20,000 RMB (about 3,000 Swiss Francs) from the Red Cross livelihoods project.

Now with his business booming, Li is trying to bring his family back together and persuade his son to join his mushroom business. “I believe our life here in Guihua will get better. We are rural people and we know how to cultivate our land,” he said. “If we treat it well, it will reward us with abundance. We are very glad for the invaluable help the Red Cross has given us when our family was facing serious difficulties.”