Most of China's population live in large, modern cities full of skyscrapers, newly built highways, and modern technology. But in the rural villages of central and western China life is very different.
These villages often do not have electricity, running water, or even outhouses. Most of the village people are farmers making a meager living from their small plots of land, growing potatoes, corn, and buckwheat. While city dwellers have restaurants on every corner, those in the village cook over wood-burning stoves and usually only eat meat a few times a year.
For more than 15 years IDEAS has worked together with the Nosu People, one of China’s ethnic groups, in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains of Southern Sichuan Province. Through working in cooperation with village leaders, school teachers, and farmers, the IDEAS project leaders have been able to understand what problems the villagers faced and what projects the local people believed would help transform their lives.
One major problem was the lack of clean, running water in the villages. Most people had to walk a mile, or more, for water and then carry it back to their home. Usually women, often elderly women, make those trips, which can be dangerous. The elderly women risk serious injury each time they make the trip to haul water.
The water the villages collect is contaminated with animal feces, trash, and agricultural runoff, which leads to poor overall health in the village. And the hours spent hauling water were hours that could not be spent farming, resulting in economic loss for the family.
Working with the villagers, the IDEAS project manager has been able to design gravity-flow water systems to transport clean, drinkable water to several villages. IDEAS workers provide the expertise and materials, and the villagers provide the labor. Water lines go to each house in a village, and each household builds a faucet and sink in their courtyard. As part of the water project, a village outhouse is also built, which is often the first outhouse in the village.
Each water project means a village can experience better health along with economic gain through more time spent in the fields. Because the villagers live a life of poverty, these economic and health gains empower their resilience, sustainability, and opportunity for a better life.
About the Author: Scott is the IDEAS Director of Project Operations for Asia and co-manager of the IDEAS Crisis Preparedness Team. Check out Scott's other blog posts, including: Top 10 Health Tips for Travel.