Donated sheep bring hope to shepherds of China's Inner Mongolia
Written by Diana Mavunduse
Mongolian children with covered sheep pen. Photo by Thor-Arne Prois/ACT.
Si Qing spends most of his days herding his goats and sheep. Like many other shepherds of Inner Mongolia (Autonomous Region), he is still recovering from the devastating snowstorms of two years ago that killed many animals and laid waste to vast tracts of grazing land. The sheep and goats are traded for food and clothing or sold to pay education and health costs. The animals' dung provides fuel for cooking and heating during the bitter winters, when temperatures can plummet to -50C.
To counter the loss of these valuable animals that are at the very heart of life in this region, the Amity Foundation, a Global Ministries partner, supported by One Great Hour of Sharing, launched a project to help 41 families who had suffered the greatest losses. Each family received 25 sheep and signed a 3-year contract to return 15% of newborn lambs to help support other families.
"All 1,025 sheep donated survived the cold winters, yielding a total of 22 lambs per family—well above the average," says Thor-Arne Prois, director of ACT International. He adds, however, that beneficiaries are concerned about the poor grazing conditions of the region. A history of excessive cultivation as well as damage from the blizzards has turned much of the once generous grasslands into a vast desert. The government has fenced large portions of the remaining grazing areas, hoping that the grass will recover. Shepherds like Si Qing must move from one piece of land to another, searching always for greener pastures.
Others, like Siqibili and her husband Wuni Batuo, are no longer nomads, thanks to an Amity project known as "Covered Pen," which provided 80 families with land, building materials, water, and electricity. Their animals are housed in small sheds. Siqibili says she feels safe and at home within their small community, where the brick houses shield them from the cold and neighbors are there to support each other.
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