The life of Wang Deren is much better now thanks to his increasing household income since he built greenhouses to grow fruit and vegetables a couple of years ago.
The farmer in the arid, but sunlight-rich northwest China, currently has two one-mu greenhouses planted with tomatoes and peaches. Mu, about 0.06 hectare, is a unit of area commonly used in China.
"Last year, I earned 18,000 yuan (some US$2,500) from the greenhouses," said Wang, a villager of Wangzhuang in Yanchi County, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
The greenhouse facilities have become increasingly popular among farmers in the northwest as they not only make use of the rich sunlight resource, but also save water, a treasure for the arid region which sees little rainfall in a year.
Wang said the greenhouses can cut water consumption by half compared with grain plantation. With a government subsidy of 6,000 yuan, he built the two greenhouse at a cost of about 10,000 yuan each.
Water shortage has long been afflicting the development of the remote northwestern area, which also includes Qinghai, Xinjiang, Gansu, Shaanxi and part of Inner Mongolia. The area's water resources only account for 5.8 percent of the country's total. Meteorologists warn the region may face more severe water shortages due to climate change.
To develop the water-saving agricultural facilities has been one of the top priorities for local governments to boost farmers' income and improve their living conditions.
By the end of last year, Ningxia has transformed 41,7000 mu of water-saving farming land. The region plans to double the figure in the next five years, according to Wang Zhengwei, the autonomous region's chairman.
In Minqin County of Gansu, farmers can get a government subsidy of 5,000 yuan and a loan of 7,000 yuan to build a greenhouse. The county government encourages farmers to buy insurance for greenhouses by paying half of the premiums.
"My annual revenue has been more than 10,000 yuan since I started greenhouse cultivation five years ago," said Deng Yulong, a Minqin farmer.
The farmer said his life had been improving a lot with the greenhouse plants whereas in the past he earned little from poor grain harvests.
(Xinhua News Agency February 29, 2008)