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Ningxia residents begin the long climb out of poverty (6)

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

13:32, December 19, 2012

Zou Xiaomei, his sister-in-law, said that since she joined the sheep-breeding business she has felt increasingly confident about the future. Zou said she loves grazing her sheep across the vast expanse of open country. The local mountains may not be high, but they are extremely rugged.

"I have never before found my home so beautiful," she said. "Sometimes I just can't help singing when I stand on top of the hill, surrounded by my sheep."

"In the mountains" she sang in the Ningxia dialect, elongating the end of each sentence, "... the red flowers bloom." Her voice trailed off.

Microfinance and mountains

"You have to trust that the farmers have the ability to make a living on their own," said Long Zhipu, director of a microfinance company in Ningxia.

In 2011, Long's company, Ningxia Huimin Microfinance Co, provided 7,686 households with loans ranging from 3,000 to 20,000 yuan. Most of the farmers used the money to start their own businesses.

With a loan recovery rate as high as 99.99 percent, Long said the company is now planning to cover more villages in the southern mountainous area.

"Money needs to be transferred to farmers in accordance with the law of the market. Over-reliance on charity traps local people in a vicious circle of aid-dependency, corruption, market distortion and then even greater poverty," he said.

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