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Farmers harness power of the sun

MA Shouxi sat beside his solar cooker, waiting for the water to boil. He even tore off a piece of paper from his son's book and put it under the kettle to show the cooker's "magic effect."

"Look, it burns within three seconds," said the 30-year-old farmer with delight.

Ma lives in an outlying village in Pengyang County, Guyuan City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. His family barely make ends meet with their meagre income from the corn and cattle they grow and rear on dry and poor land.

The farmer had never imagined that one day he might use this type of cooker, not to mention having it for free.

"I have no extra money to buy a solar cooker," Ma said.

So when he was given a solar cooker for free, he deemed it "pennies from heaven."

Even months later, he still had no idea why a company gave him the free cooker, but he now knows that by using the device he can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing greenhouse gases is a growing concern for all humanity, living under the threat of climate change. But it is a subject Ma, in his remote village, had never heard of before.

"I only know we do not need any longer to burn corn stalks or coal to cook meals," he said, "so, we can cut our household costs."

Ma is just one example of poor Chinese farmers who benefit from the Clean Development Mechanism, a global initiative to reduce greenhouse gases.

CDM is an arrangement under the Kyoto Protocol that allows industrialized nations to support projects to reduce emissions in developing nations as an alternative to more expensive projects at home.

The CDM project, which Ma took part in, is jointly conducted by a Ningxia-based company and the Environmental Center of Tsinghua University.

Ningxia Fenglian Co Ltd will send out 120,000 free solar cookers to poor farmers in south Ningxia this year and in 2011.

The company has sent out 3,400 solar cookers in Pengyang County. Another 68,000 such cookers will be sent to farmers in counties such as Haiyuan, Tongxin and Longde this year. And the rest are to be sent out in 2011.

"About 600,000 poor farmers, 10 percent of Ningxia's population, will benefit from this project," said company chairman Wang Running.

The farmers are expected to use 1.2 million tons less coal within the 10-year implementation period, thus saving 600 million yuan (US$87.8 million), Wang said.

The project will also help reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 2.5 million tons over the 10 years, he added.

"The project can both help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and ease poverty," said Wang Chan, a professor with the Environmental Center of Tsinghua University.



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