– Peter & Merilyn Feickert – New Zealand Livestock team

“Peter, what can we do to help the Yi farmers, so they can afford medical care and education?” asked James Hudson Taylor III.

In April 1995 we joined an assessment trip into Liangshan with an interpreter and public health professionals. We worked closely with the Zhaojue Animal Husbandry Bureau (AHB) to start the sheep lend and return project.

In August 1995, Ke Lao (MSI’s senior consultant) from Beijing joined us, and with his help, the project officially began with lending ten farmers in Jiefanggou ten sheep each for three years. The second year we settled new farmers with ten sheep each in five villages. Grass seed and fertiliser were donated so the sheep would have sufficient pasture to eat. After 3 years we held a sheep handing over ceremony in Jiefanggou, where farmers would bring their sheep to hand over to the next group of farmers.

We rewarded the farmers that had attained good production in the previous three years. We worked very closely with the AHB and made good friends.

Because of population pressure, the AHB wanted to know if it was possible to farm productively at an elevation of 3,000 meters. We leased land at Qiliba and started the Qiliba Demonstration farm. We taught fencing, sheep shearing, land cultivation, and crop establishment on the farm. With the Rotary Club’s help, wherever the sheep-lending programme was operating, we would donate basic school equipment to the Yi village schools at the sheep handing over ceremony. This project developed into the Qiliba Scholarship Programme and Library.

We taught the neighbours how to increase their production, and held an open day for all the community to come and learn. The local Qiliba Village put on a feast to thank us for investing into their community. Local leaders told us that we had improved the local economy by 1,000%.