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Villagers 'Adopt' Ancient Tea Trees in SW China Province
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Xue Jinqiang is carefully removing moss from an ancient tea tree in his courtyard.


"The ancient tea trees that we are contracted to take care of are very precious. We tend and protect them cautiously," said the 54-year-old farmer in the Pu'er Hani and Yi Autonomous County of Simao, in southwest China's Yunnan Province.


There are 372 ancient tea trees aged several hundred years in the Mount Kunlu at Kuanhong Village of Fengyang Township, Pu'er county, where Xue Jinqiang lives. The ancient trees are distribute in fields and in front of and behind houses at villages. Most of them have been "adopted" by 14 local farmers. Xue takes care of eight trees, all in and around his courtyard.


Chen Qi, a senior official with the Fengyang township government, told Xinhua, "Along the ridge of the Mount Kunlu, there are roughly 133 hectares of ancient tea trees."


The village employs a contract system to farm out the ancient tea trees for tending and protection, according to Chen Qi. Some farmers have "adopted" 20 trees each. Usually, the villagers take responsibility for picking tea-leaves and removing weeds. According to township rules on tree protection, tea-leave picking is restricted to a period between April and October, and no human activity is allowed to damage the growing environment for the ancient tea trees, said Chen Qi.


Currently, the ancient trees continue to yield tea leaves that sell well on local markets.


Experts believe farming the ancient but vulnerable tea trees out to local villagers is a good approach to conserve them.


A major tea production base along the ancient tea and horse trade route, Simao boasts 24,000 hectares of ancient wild tea trees, with the oldest aged 2,700 years.


(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2005)

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