Early snow in north China triggers herdsmen's living concerns

08:28, November 30, 2010      

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Holding an armful of hay, Bao Suozhu walked into the livestock shelter to feed his sheep and cows. Although the snow in late November did not cause many losses, his face was still frowning.

"The hay was preserved for the spring festival for lambing, but now I have to start using it because of the snow," said Bao, a herdsman in Hinggan League (Prefecture), a pasture region about 1,500 km northeast of the capital Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

The snow fell on the League's county-level Horqin Right Front Banner at the China-Mongolia border 40 days earlier than is usual , and was the heaviest in 30 years. Snow has accumulated up to 30 cm deep in most part s of the region , and 50 cm in some areas, disrupting the lives of more than 47,600 people here.

Although no casualties were reported, herdsmen like Bao believe hardships are waiting ahead.

"As the stored hay can only support livestock for one month, it has been two months since we have suffered from the snow," he sighed.

Bao said the grass was sparse due to the drought this summer, and the maize straw that had been planted could barely help the livestock survive the winter. "Now that the snow came much earlier, things would become much harder," he said.

Although he made nearly 90,000 yuan (13,500 U.S. dollars) in the fall while selling cashmere, he still had no extra money to buy more feed as he had to repay bank loans, pay tuition for his two children, and spent nearly 30,000 yuan to have his new livestock shelter built.

Xie Chunlin, deputy chief of agricultural and animal husbandry for the county, said there was about two months' feed uncovered for the county , which was 100 million kilos in quantity.

"The snow has had a huge impact on people's lives," Xie said.

Arimuhexige, another herdsman at the Manzutun Gacha (Village) who raised more than 300 sheep and 50 cows, said he found himself making no profits as extra feed cost him all his savings from the past year.

"Every sheep needs to eat hay and other feed, costing five yuan per day, and I need to spend 60,000 to 70,000 yuan for them all for the next one and a half months, which is exactly my income for a year," he said.

"We can endure the hardship for being herdsmen, but we are afraid of natural disasters," he added.

Also, herdsmen hoped the government could coordinate with financial institutions for loans to help them out.

"We could only get 10,000 to 20,000 yuan, and would be rejected whenever the previous loan was unpaid," said Wurigumule, a Mongolian at the Mandulatu Gacha.

To help the herdsmen overcome these difficulties, the Inner Mongolia Development Bank allocated 30 million yuan as disaster relief loans, according to county government officials.

"It would be much easier if more loans could be received," said Wurigumule.

Further, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region issued a circular Monday, earmarking a 25 million yuan relief fund, specially for feed purchases for the county after the region's vice chairman, Liu Zhuozhi, visited the county, said Chen Yancheng, chief of disaster relief headquarters at the Horqin Right Front Banner.

The city government of Erdos, the richest city in the region, also donated 10 million yuan to the Hinggan League for feedstuff, he said.



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