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Foreign Fund Helps Farmers in Shaanxi
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Yang Zeyun, a teacher in the Pozhao Village Primary School in eastern Shaanxi Province, played an organ while talking about how much better conditions for learning there had become.

"My pupils used to sit in cold draughts for classes in the winter because our classroom was in dangerous disrepair for years," Yang said. "Now we have not only good classrooms, but also advanced facilities."

The school and its approximately 400 pupils are benefiting from funding support from overseas.

In fact, Shaanxi, a northwestern province with a number of poverty-stricken farmers, has implemented 15 projects with a total fund of US$43 million to support local poor farmers with their production, to improve rural medical service and health conditions, to help protect rural women and children's interests and rights, and to train laid-off workers, according to provincial commerce department officials.

The funds used to benefit farmers' production and living were from foreign governments and international organizations, said Li Xuemei, director of the Shaanxi commerce department, which operates the projects supported by the funds.

"Two projects supported with US$733,300 from the Australian Government were completed in 2005, of which the Liulingou water supply project, in a mountainous village in northern Shaanxi, provides high quality and healthy water for 534 farmers to drink, and the other project for a school in Pozhao Village in eastern Shaanxi gives 400 pupils good education conditions," the director said.

After a five-year effort supported with US$8 million from the Belgian Government, the social and economic development projects carried out in six poverty-stricken counties in the province helped raise local farmers' incomes and adjust the structure of local agricultural production, said Xu Donglin, an official with the provincial agriculture department.

Wenzhigou Village, for instance, a mountainous village in southern Shaanxi, received help from the projects through the Belgian fund and enjoyed an average growth in annual income from 260 yuan (US$32) per person five years ago to 720 yuan (US$89) per person last year by changing their production from grain to cash crops, Xu said.

About 10,000 local farmers received agricultural technological training, paid for with US$14 million from the Italian and German governments, Li Xuemei said.

And a project to protect rural women from domestic violence and ensure rural children's schooling, which has been carried out in Shaanxi since 2001 with US$8.4 million from the United Nations Children's Fund, has benefited about 10,000 rural women and more than 5,000 rural children, Li said.

(China Daily April 6, 2006)

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