FOR peasants in West Sunzhuang Village, in north China's Hebei province who have become expert mahjong players during the slack farming season, this winter has not been one of leisure and idleness as before.
As farm workers at the village's jujube orchard, they have willingly given up mahjong and poker – once their only pastime – and continued with farm work even in the coldest winter months.
Each day, they plant trees, water them and keep them from the cold.
“We don't have the time even to think about mahjong,” said one of the farm workers with a laugh.
Jujube farming and trading, initiated by the privately owned Hebei Chenxiang Group, was started last August to expand the company's business and provide job opportunities to the local peasants.
The group has encouraged the peasants to lease their excess farmland and get an annual return much higher than what they themselves can make in the fields. When the company begins to make a profit, the peasants also get a share, according to their land leasing agreement.
So far, most peasants have willingly leased their land and started to work full time at the orchard. Like other employees of the group, the peasants get a monthly wage in return.
Zhu Dengliang, a villager who was tired of the winter idleness, was extremely happy with the job and his family has earned over 2,000 yuan (RM900) as farm workers over the past two months.
“We'll be better off from now on,” he said. Locked in the hinterland of the Taihang Mountain Range, West Sunzhuang Village was known as one of the poorest areas in Handan County. Sterile land, tough climate and little access to traffic also hindered its development in the past. –People's Daily