Last Wednesday my colleague Guo Yumei and I visited the village of Huye, in the mountains behind Fulin town in Hanyuan County. We were beginning the survey work for a participatory rural appraisal of the villagers' situation and development possibilities.

We had climbed rough narrow track about 1200 metres, with a spectacular view of Fulin town below and the Great Cool Mountains in the distance beyond, when we came to the half finished new road the villagers are blasting and digging out of the mountainside. This will make it easier to get their goods to market they say, and help them escape poverty.

We were given a graphic example of their current difficulties. A commotion up ahead revealed a woman, in her thirties I guess, about 5 feet six (Sichuanese people are quite short), with a 300 pound live pig tied to her back on a wooden carrying frame. The pig, a sow looking a little humanoid tied upright, was docile, panting just a little. Too big for the villagers' small pack ponies this was the only way to get it to market, the live price being higher than for just the meat. Actually four villagers were taking the pig down in a relay.

We stayed overnight in the village, and on the way down the next day met one of the pig carriers. He said the whole trip down took them five hours (we did it in one and a half unburdened) and one of them twisted their knee. I am constantly amazed by the hardiness of these farmers here, and their cheerfulness as they cope daily with a burden of toil that would kill me in a week.

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