Cha Yuan (Tea Garden) village in Gansu Province lies at the end of the line of destruction caused by the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China. The 7.9 magnitude quake destroyed houses, roads and the land itself.
I visited the village one year after the quake with the Lanzhou-based environmental NGO Green Camel Bell. They are working with local residents on a sustainable rebuilding programme, to train local people in eco-technologies and house-building, ready to pass on their skills to other villagers. The dream is one day to open the village to eco-tourism.
At the time of my visit, most people were still living in blue disaster relief tents supplied by the government after the quake. Progress was slow due to the area’s remoteness, making it low on the list of government priorities, whilst residents were finding it hard to secure loans to finance the rebuilding of their homes (insurance is rare in rural China). However, with the help of Green Camel Bell, the residents were actively planning for a brighter future: sketching new homes on scrap paper, planning by candle-light, and carrying materials to rebuild on their backs up the steep valleys.