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Families gain income and confidence

Loan scheme gets would-be farmers off the ground

Families gain income and confidence
Peasants of Haoli village sign contract to borrow micro credit funds reporter, Xi’an

September 13, 2011

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Families throughout the mountain regions of Fuping and Baishui counties in Shaanxi province have been helped to thrive with a micro-credit scheme, launched by the Catholic Social Service Center of Xi’an diocese. The scheme has been in practice since 2005 and its organizers are pleased to record that all loans so far have been repaid. This year it took a major step forward by putting its operation on a more formal footing and one of its first beneficiaries is a group of 16 families from the village of  Haoli. They have been allocated 71,500 yuan (US$11,200) which they plan to use to farm livestock and grow vegetables. Father Stephen Chen Ruixue, the center’s director, explained how the scheme works. “A project management group is formed by the villagers who then receive applications from families for loans, which they consider. They also verify the applicants’ situation,” he said. “After signing a contract, the eligible families are given the funds in a lump sum payment. They have to promise to pay off the debt by installments.” Min Yongping, an elderly man who has been helped by the project, said: “I was hesitant at first, but then I found the Church center helped us to not only increase our income but also regain confidence through making a living.” The scheme is available to all local people regardless of their faith and, in fact, the vast majority of Haoli’s 126 families are non-Catholic. They too appreciate how helpful the scheme has been. “The village is inaccessible as it lies in the remote Qinling mountains,” said one of them, “and there is seldom any work for people to go out to. The Church’s scheme has solved a lot of financial problems by enabling the surplus labor force to develop a livelihood through husbandry.” Despite its isolation, the Qinling mountains region is rich in plant-life, with many rare and even unique species. Taking advantage of this, workers at the Catholic Social Service Center have also invited an agriculture professor to instruct local families on the organic farming of walnut trees, which can provide a highly lucrative crop. Related reports: China gets first Catholic foundation Chinese wives help the weakest for Lent Catholic farmers worry as drought hits northern China

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