In the northern Chinese province of Jiangxi, in the basin of the Yangtze River, a 67-year-old farmer walks through his rice fields. After 49 consecutive days without precipitation, yet in the middle of the rainy season, the ground became hard as a rock. “This year’s harvest is not good… Lthe ears are empty and theare grains of rice do not form due to lack of rainhe breathes. Lookedz, the land is very dry, it’s cracked all over.”
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In the neighboring plot, same observation: “For two and a half months, there has been no rain at all. The rice does not grow”, blows a “Compared to a normal year, rice production will be reduced by two thirdssays another peasant, Wang Xigong. At this point in the summer, it’s too late to make up for the losses. There is no cure.”
Each year, Chinese farmers learn more about the effects of global warming. For Xu Yinlong, a researcher at the Beijing Academy of Agricultural Sciences,Awareness comes slowly: “In the Yangtze area, farmers are used to a lot of rainfall. The work to combat drought will have to be reinforced in the future, with the construction of new hydraulic installations, new canals to transport water to fields and construction of pumping stations to improve drip irrigation.”
“Chinese agriculture is facing an unprecedented transition. The ability to withstand drought is still insufficient.”Xu Yinlong, researcher at the Beijing Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Rice fields, cotton fields, lotus fields… Everywhere, water reserves are at their lowest. The peasants try to cope, with small means. “This year, we bought a small pump that irrigates our fieldsbut it is insufficient to reach the lands which are higherexplains farmer Huang Fangming. Lhe cultures are already deadare of thirst. The rice paddies are dead.”
A question worries the authorities: with the evolution of the climate, will China be able to continue to feed its 1.4 billion inhabitants? This is a real concern for researcher Xu Yinlong. “China’s food security is an issue that is constantly monitored because, already in normal times, agricultural resources are insufficient to feed all the inhabitants, explains the specialist. With the climate change, it is an issue that will become even more urgent. New lands must be found, especially in the north and west of the country. These regions were previously too cold to grow. But, grdue to warming, these lands will become cultivable”says the specialist.
The situation puts the Chinese government under pressure. In addition to food damage, the risk is also social in the Chinese countryside where global warming is melting farmers’ incomes.. “My husband is disabled. If we don’t cultivate the fields, we have no other way to earn a living”worries a farmer.
“How can I earn a living? How can I find another job at my age? In previous years, I could cultivate, sell rice and cotton to feed myself. This year, it’s impossible.”A Chinese farmer
Faced with the level of the Yangtze River, which fell again this summer in proportions never before reached, the peasants of Jiangxi are very pessimistic for the years to come. The river feeds all the crops in the basin. “If it continues, I think a lot of rice fields will be abandoned, complains a man. How is it possible that we are not worried?”
In China, agriculture at risk in the face of global warming: report by Sébastien Berriot