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After quake, Yushu farmers stick to their land

Updated: 2010-05-11 21:56
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YUSHU, Qinghai - Homeless since the devastating quake in Yushu on April 14, farmer Guo Wenfang and his family of six are determined to harvest their vegetables this year.

The family has been scraping a living from the land, 4,200 meters above sea level, since moving to Qinghai Province from the central province of Henan 20 years ago.

Guo, 50, and his son wash dirt off vegetables just pulled from the field, a few yards from the ruins of their house in Gyegu Township.

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Guo's wife, Lu Xiuming, draws water from a small well nearby. The burning sun and plateau wind bringing dust from the debris do not stop their work.

Lu said they had grown and sold vegetables since arriving in Gyegu Township, of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, from Nanyang, in Henan.

"The earthquake destroyed our house. But we were lucky no one in the family was hurt," says Lu.

She says the vegetable crops were also harmed during the quake.

"But we cannot give up this vegetable field as we have invested in it," says Guo. The business was profitable in normal years.

"Last year, our income was about 60,000 yuan (US$8,785) and our annual investment was about 20,000 yuan," Guo says.

"But vegetable prices right now are lower than usual as the market was disrupted and fewer people are buying vegetables after the quake."

Lu says they were growing turnips, scallions, Chinese chives and cabbages.

Their life in Yushu is settled as their oldest son, at 26, has grown up and married there. They are expecting a grandchild.

However, the electricity is still off in the settlement, leaving them unable to water the vegetables. Life in a tent, provided by the government, is also becoming difficult.

But, they say, they just want to start farming again.

The have a firm belief in the prospects of the family business, and their busy work in the hot sun shows their determination is undimmed by the 7.1-magnitude quake that claimed at least 2,220 lives, and destroyed at least 85 percent of the buildings in Gyegu.

"We will continue growing vegetables, when the power comes again," says Guo.