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  Chinese farmers struggle to fight severe drought  



JINAN, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Gao Jitian, a farmer in eastern China's Shandong Province, was afraid that she might harvest nothing if it does not rain soon.

Gao lived in Nanyang village of Linyi City in southeastern Shandong, one of China's major grain-growing regions parched by the lingering drought.

"The village has not seen any rain or snow since September and I have not experienced such severe drought in my life," said the 55-year-old Gao.

Her family had 1.8 mu (0.12 hectares) of wheat fields, which had withered because of the drought. She spent 2,700 yuan (about 409 U.S. dollars) on a 600-meter-long rubber pipe to pump water from a pond in the village to water her crops.

"Maybe it's not worth it, but I cannot just wait and watch my wheat crop all go dead," she said. Gao's family mainly lived on her husband's wages while their earnings from growing wheat only totaled 2,000 yuan last year.p The pond from which Gao drained water is almost dried up. "It will become a dry pond in another one or two days as villagers scramble for water to irrigate their farmland," said Jiang Lianghe, whose five-mu wheat field was close to Gao's.

"There are more than 30 water pumps around the pond at the peak and I cannot find a position to put mine," Jiang said.

"The effect of the irrigation can only last for more than two weeks and I have no idea how to solve the problem if it does not rain by then," he said. Jiang said his wheat output totaled two tonnes last year, which he expects to be halved this year because of the drought.

However, compared with Gao Jiwu, Jiang is much luckier. About one-third of Gao's wheat crop had turned black, and it was so withered that it accidentally caught on fire . "Usually the wheat crop cannot catch on fire, but now it is too dry," Gao said sadly. Gao was still watering his blackened wheat field, though he was not sure whether this would save his crop.

Across China, the drought is considered the worst in six decades in many areas. Eight major grain-producing provinces, which include Shandong, Jiangsu, Henan, Hebei and Shanxi, have been affected. The dry spell also prompted the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization to warn on Tuesday that the drought is now threatening the survival of China's wheat crop .

By Wednesday, about 7.73 million hectares of China's winter wheat, or 42.4 percent of the total planted in the eight provinces, had been hit by the drought.





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