The Last Fall

Wang Bangxian lives in Tiantaishan village in Guizhou province, China. On a rainy day many years ago, she set off on the long and arduous journey home after fetching buckets of clean water from a mountain spring. When full, her buckets weighed as much as she did.

Wang Bangxian demonstrating how she used to fetch water with buckets. The buckets are now used to transport animal feed and fertiliser instead.

She had to make the trip twice a day, rain or shine, in order to fetch enough water for drinking, cooking and washing.

On that fateful day, the rain had made the precipitous, mud-strewn trails even more slippery and dangerous. In a hurry to get home to her infant son, Wang Bangxian tripped and fell, breaking her foot and spilling the water.

“It was so painful that I cried.” – Wang Bangxian

The mountain trails are often muddy and slippery after a heavy rain.

Wang Bangxian recalls being bedridden for weeks after her fall.

She eventually made it home, but for half a month afterwards, Wang Bangxian was bedridden. Her husband had to sacrifice farming time to fetch water for the family. As farmers who depend solely on their crops for income, their livelihood was threatened.

Wang Bangxian and her husband still farms potatoes and sweet potatoes, which are photographed above in their home.

Over time, she was able to get back to her normal routine but her foot still hurts to this day. Rolling up her pants, she showed me a visible raised bump on her foot about the size of a small grape.

The raised bump on Wang Bangxian’s foot shows the site of her injury. With limited access to medical care back then, she used herbs to nurse her foot back to health.

Wang Bangxian was overjoyed when Village Water Management (VWM) programme brought access to clean piped water right to her home. These days, she no longer has to carry heavy loads of water along treacherous mountain roads, and has more time for farming and raising livestock.

This project in Tiantaishan village, Guizhou implemented under the Village Water Management (VWM) programme in China, is co-funded by CITIC Envirotech.

 The Village Water Management (VWM) programme mentors a regionally or nationally available platform of grassroots leaders residing within the community, enabling them to implement clean water projects for the sustenance and development of their communities. The VWM programme is delivered in locations where available water sources are relatively clean but significantly distant from households.

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Burnt, but not broken

Tiantaishan Village, Guizhou Province

Ran Fangqing, 46

Ran Fangqing, 46, lives in a small village deep in the mountains of Guizhou province, China. A fire during his childhood left him partially blind in one eye and half of his face covered in a complex network of scar tissue.

The fire, however, was just the beginning of a string of unfortunate events. Fangqing eventually got married, only to have his wife depart soon after the birth of his only son, leaving him to juggle the roles of both a father and a mother.

Beyond parenting duties, as the only abled-bodied person and sole bread-winner of the household, Fangqing also had to travel daily along treacherous mountain trails to fetch water, cook, wash, provide and care for his aging mother and infant son.

Ran Fangqing’s mother inside their home

Life only got more difficult when his elderly mother became senile. She started to panic whenever Fangqing left the house, and refused to eat whenever he was not around.

As her conditions deteriorated, Fangqing was unable to even leave the house to fetch water. With few other alternative water sources, the family had to sometimes resort to drinking from muddy puddles and ditches.

When we visited, his mother was already incoherent in her speech. The elderly woman had lost all her teeth and her movements appeared to be laboured. She used a pair of bamboo sticks as makeshift crutches to move around the small house. The only coherent words that she uttered when we were there were strange and somewhat morbid – “I do not want to be buried in these clothes”, she said.

For years, Fangqing struggled to fulfill the family’s most basic needs – food and water. A heavy burden was lifted off his shoulders when Lien AID’s Village Water Management programme brought clean water from a mountain spring directly to his home. On the day we visited, he was just about to cook lunch. He washed and prepared the food while keeping a close eye on his mother.

Fangqing washing vegetables using clean piped water right in his home.

Fangqing preparing a meal in the kitchen as his mother wanders about the house using her makeshift crutches.

Having clean water piped directly to his house has not only made life more convenient, but it has also improved the quality of life for Fangqing and his small family. Soon after he gained affordable and convenient access to clean piped water, Fangqing started raising chickens and fish to earn more income. He now maintains a small chicken coop as well as several fishponds in the vicinity of his home.

“In the past, we did not even have enough water to drink. Now, life has gotten better. I have enough water to rear chickens and fish.” Almost all of the extra income that Fangqing earns now goes towards supporting his only son, who will soon graduate from high school in a nearby town.

Fangqing’s chicken coop

Fangqing’s home – the chicken coop is on the right while his fish pond is visible in the background.

Although life is still far from easy, but Fangqing remains hopeful about the future. “My biggest wish is that my son can continue his studies in university.” He told us. “I want him to have a promising future, and lead a better life than I ever did.”

The water storage tank, from which water is now directly piped to the village homes.

This project in Tiantaishan village, Guizhou province, implemented under the Village Water Management programme in China, was co-funded by CITIC Envirotech.

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The Prettiest Student Village Officer

Puban Village, Gangkou Town

When villagers in Puban are asked about Zhangli, they invariably refer to her as the “Prettiest Student Villager Officer (最美丽的村官)”. Zhangli was a fresh graduate and young mother of a little girl when she decided to apply to work in a rural village as a Student Village Officer (大学生村官). Driven by her passion for helping others, she applied to and passed the Chongqing Municipal Committee’s selection exams with flying colours, and was subsequently assigned to Puban village in Gangkou town, Wulong county. As a Student Village Officer, she would take up residence at Puban village, supporting and implementing the Chinese government’s poverty alleviation policies at the grassroots level, and work to improve the well-being of the villagers.

Shortly after she arrived at Puban village in 2010, she was approached by a villager who was in dire straits from the death of more than 200 mountain goats that his entire household had depended upon for their livelihood. Together with some of the village leaders, they investigated the case and found that the goats had died due to the spread of disease in the dirty pens, which could not be cleaned regularly due to the lack of clean water. Subsequent visits, interviews and chats with other households in the village also unearthed similar issues. The root cause of their struggles with improving their means of livelihood was invariably linked to the lack of clean water.

Student Village Officer (SVO) Zhang Li

Zhang Li with some of the “left-behind” children in Puban village

Thus when Zhangli found out about Lien AID’s Village Water Management programme, she submitted a project proposal for Puban village. However, as a certain amount of co-funding from local governments and villagers was required, Zhangli initially faced a shortfall of funds for the project. She refused to give up however, as she knew that a piped water system would enable the villagers to have a better quality of life. Whenever Zhangli talked to the “left-behind” children in the village, she would be reminded of her daughter, whom she had left behind to take up the post at Puban village. She was determined to make the project a success so that they would have a better life with clean tap water.

Zhangli, the village head and Lien AID at a site visit to the completed project

Zhangli, the village head and Lien AID at a site visit to the completed project

With the support of Lien AID, the local governments, and the villagers, she worked tirelessly to raise the necessary funds and made sure the project stayed on tract, and was able to successfully coordinate and supervise the construction of the rural piped water system in Puban village. Although she often had no time during the weekends to visit her daughter and husband, who were living in another town, she found satisfaction in the fact that the villagers and the children no longer had to fetch water or depend on unreliable water sources.

“While implementing the clean water project, I gained not just technical knowledge in rural water facility construction but also learned how to resolve issues and manage stakeholders. The learning curve was steep but it was a great experience which allowed me to grow from a young graduate into a mature grassroots worker.”

In 2013, after the completion of the project, she was feted as one of the inspiring figures of Wulong county in the television programme “Ten Figures Inspiring Wulong” (感动武隆十大人物). Even though she is no longer working as a Student Village Officer at Puban village, she continues to serve the rural communities through her capacity as the chairwoman of the Women’s Federation of Gangkou town in Wulong county. And the villagers still remember her as the “Prettiest Student Villager Officer (最美丽的村官)”.

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Updates from the field: Village Water Management projects in China

Better access to clean water a reality for more than 5,000 villagers in Shandong

Back in June, we shared updates on some ongoing Village Water Management projects in China. Last month, we completed inspection for three project sites in Shandong province and more than 5,000 villagers in Zhujiazhuang, Huangshanzi and Beishiqiao villages gained access to clean piped water.

A villager in Zhujiazhuang village, Shandong province now has access to clean piped water right outside her home

A villager in Zhujiazhuang village, Shandong province now has access to clean piped water right outside her home

Post project monitoring and inspection

We are also continuing our efforts on post project monitoring for VWM projects completed last year. In the beginning of August, we visited the four villages of Qianjin, Jinggang, Sanyuan and Zhongying in Guizhou province, where clean piped water was brought to more than 7,000 villagers under the VWM programme.

Volunteers and staff en route to the villages

Volunteers and staff en route to the villages

With the help of volunteers, we recorded water utilisation rates and examined operational documents and the conditions of water facilities. We also conducted house-to-house visits as well as interviews with members of the local water management committee. The information collected will be used for the post project sustainability assessments (PPSAs), which will aim to improve the effectiveness  and outcomes of our VWM projects.

Learn more about the VWM programme in China here. To stay in touch with our latest updates, join our mailing list.

Tackling water woes through strategic partnership

In collaboration with our strategic partner China Association for Poverty Alleviation and Development (CAPAD), we organised our first Village Water Management (VWM) programme commendation event in Beijing on 22 May where we took the opportunity to share the clean water project outcomes from our partnership in the last five years.

VWM programme commendation event organised in collaboration with CAPAD

VWM programme commendation event organised in collaboration with CAPAD

The event saw the participation of 58 attendees, including key leaders from Lien AID and CAPAD, various government authorities, Student Village Officers (SVOS), corporate partner and the local media. CAPAD’s Vice Chairman Mr. Wen Kegang shared the collaboration programme with Lien AID has benefitted more than 100,000 rural villagers across 73 poverty stricken villages in nine provinces in the past five years. He expressed the importance of continuous close collaboration between Lien AID and CAPAD as well as the support from various local government authorities. SVOs were called upon to continue to advance their efforts in project implementation for the villagers and for their personal growth.

Vice Minister of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development of China Mr. Ou Qingping also attended the event. In his keynote speech, he spoke highly of the VWM programme. Commendation awards were presented to outstanding SVOs, local partners, individual and corporate donors at the event.

Commendation awards presented to outstanding SVOs

Commendation awards presented to outstanding SVOs

Closing the session, our CEO Mr. Koh Lian Hock called for foundations, corporates and individuals to participate in the programme to improve clean water access and living conditions of rural communities in China.

Updates on ongoing Village Water Management (VWM) projects in China

Back in January, we shared the progress of our ongoing VWM projects in China. With most of the projects under the 7th batch of the VWM programme completed and pending inspection, we are picking up on the progress of the 8th batch of VWM projects spread across Hunan, Shandong and Guizhou provinces.

Construction of piped water system in Jinlan village, Guizhou

Construction of piped water system in Jinlan village, Guizhou province

Under the 8th batch of the VWM programme, the construction of water distribution and storage infrastructure has kicked off at some project sites, with some households in Huangshanzi and Zhujiazhuang villages in Shandong province and Qishu village in Guizhou province gaining access to clean piped water.

In addition to the construction of infrastructure, we also conducted a series of Health and Hygiene (H&H) training sessions for villagers in April and May. These sessions aim to increase the knowledge capacity of local communities, as well as raise awareness on best practices in health and hygiene. As we move towards the conclusion of the 8th batch of VWM projects later this year, stay tuned to learn more about our takeaways and milestones accomplished!

Villagers attend training on best practices in health & hygiene in Longshan village, Guizhou province

Villagers attend training on best practices in health & hygiene in Longshan village, Guizhou province

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China: A Thirst for Change

A Chinese villager using our piped water system

This month, Lien AID shared about how our Village Water Management (VWM) programme helps to mitigate some of the sustainability issues faced by water projects in China on China Water Risk. China Water Risk is a non-profit initiative dedicated to foster efficient and responsible use of China’s water resources by engaging global investment and business community, civil society and individuals in understanding and managing China’s water risks.

Despite large-scale investments from the central government, poor operational and financial management of facilities, deteriorating source water quality and insufficient water resources can impact the success of centralised water supply projects.

Lien AID’s VWM programme looks at mitigating some of these sustainability issues by adopting an effective and efficient implementation framework. Since 2012, we have enabled 72,150 villagers from 50 rural poor villages in China to gain access to clean tap water.

To understand more about how the VWM programme aims to deliver sustainable water access through centralised water supply infrastructure, local water advocates, local government participation, community management and cost-sharing, read the complete opinion piece at China Water Risk. To learn more details about our programme in China, visit Lien AID China’s new microsite.


Coutts Foundation X Lien AID – Bringing Clean Water to 17,959 rural poor in China

Coutts Foundation partnered with Lien AID in February last year for the 5th batch of projects initiated under the Village Water Management programme in China and which were recently completed in July 2015. The 11 projects in this batch are located in the prefectures of Zunyi, Bijie and Anshun in Guizhou province and have received strong local support with 74% of co-funding from local township/ county governments as well as villagers contributing cash or labour in kind.

VWM China Batch 5 projects in Zunyi

VWM China Batch 5 projects in Zunyi

The projects encountered some challenges during the implementation process, largely due to obstructions and delays associated with national rail works in Anshun prefecture as well as resettlement of village groups and rural-urban migration that resulted in a drop in number of villagers requiring clean water access in the selected locations. The continued delays in the completion of the rail works resulted in more than a 6 month delay to projects located in Anshun. We will continue to follow up with the Student Village officers of affected projects as well as the local officials to ensure secure villagers’ access to the water supplies.

VWM China Batch 5 projects in Bijie and Anshun

VWM China Batch 5 projects in Bijie and Anshun

25 Student Village Officers attended the initial 5-day training workshop during the project development and training phase and subsequently 11 of those Officers (for the projects/ villages selected) were mentored throughout the project implementation and construction process.

VWM China Batch 5 Training Workshop

VWM China Batch 5 Training Workshop

To ensure the benefits of the clean water access are realised and sustained over a long period, village water management committees were formalised, with rules and regulations instituted and recognised by local governments. Water tariffs that could support the regular operations and maintenance of the facilities and which were acceptable for the villagers were also agreed upon in discussions with all local community stakeholders. A total of 25 health and hygiene sessions were also held in the 11 villages by the Student Villager Officers.

2,942m3 of water storage capacity and 203km run of pipes have been delivered which will ensure that villagers have access to sufficient supplies of clean water in their households, even during the dry season.

Water storage tank in Gaoxin Village, Yuanhou Township, Chishui County, Zunyi Prefecture

Water storage tank in Gaoxin Village, Yuanhou Township, Chishui County, Zunyi Prefecture

The projects have benefitted 17,959 rural poor in Zunyi, Bijie and Anshun prefectures of Guizhou province with clean water. All water facilities at the 11 villages have been handed over to the local communities to manage and operate, with legal ownership residing in their hands. We will however continue to monitor the usage of the facilities through data collection from water meters and correspondences with local community leaders for another 2 years.

Clean water piped to households in the prefectures of Zunyi, Bijie and Anshun

Clean water piped to households in the prefectures of Zunyi, Bijie and Anshun

Student Village Officers from Guizhou complete course on water and sanitation project management

In mid-March, more than 20 young Student Village Officers (SVOs) selected from 3 counties in Guizhou Province, China, participated in Lien AID’s training which prepares them for the role of water and sanitation project management to tackle these issues in their rural villages.

Led by Lien AID Programme staff, China Association of Poverty Alleviation and Development (CAPAD) representatives, and a Beijing Tsinghua University photojournalism graduate student, the training consisted of experienced Student Village Officers sharing lessons from the process of implementing their projects, learning about the various stages of project management, as well as photography tips and other requirements for project documentation.


SVOs also participated in discussions, interactive quizzes, and simulation of scenarios and felt positive about the entire experience.

To find out more, take a look at our Village Water Management Programme.

Opinion : Finding right local champions key to maximum impact

Currently, there are still poverty-stricken communities in China that are in dire need of resources, many of whom live in mountainous and isolated communities.

Each year, we receive numerous genuine appeals for help from local communities which we put through a stringent process when identifying poor rural communities in need of water and sanitation improvements in China.

We realize that an important step lies in finding the right local champions to ensure these projects achieve maximum impact for our beneficiaries. We do this through our Village Water Management (VWM) programme, where we work directly with residents of the villages itself to help oversee the progress of these projects.

The rigorous selection process for Student Village Officers (大学生村官) for our projects involves an independent panel including water and sanitation experts from China and Singapore, which also evaluates the feasibility of water and sanitation proposals. As part of a needs assessment process, our staff visit shortlisted project sites and speak directly with benefiting communities to establish their needs and ensure project sustainability.

Through our work on the ground with our chosen NGO partner, China Association for Poverty Alleviation and Development (CAPAD), and direct interaction with the Student Village Officers and beneficiaries, we are able to see first hand, how all our resources are allocated, and how it creates value for our stakeholders.


To date, our VWM programme has been well supported by CAPAD and Chinese authorities. We look forward to working with them again this month, when we conduct a training session for more than 20 selected Student Village Officers in Guizhou Province.

To find out more, take a look at our Village Water Management Programme.

Meet China’s Water Gladiators

We’ve always made it a point to listen to the local community. We pay attention to their personal stories of hardship, like their experiences of going on long backbreaking treks to collect a single bucket of water from the nearest water source. We then include the local community’s voices to inform our decisions from the design to the completion of an initiative, to ensure that their water and sanitation concerns are addressed in the most effective and sustainable manner.

This November, friends of Lien AID were given the opportunity to meet and listen to four Student Village Officers (SVOs) who had traveled from their rural provinces of Chongqing, Gansu and Guizhou to Singapore to better understand water policies, governance and management to apply in their projects to achieve sustainable impact. SVOs are young graduates deployed by the Chinese government for a period of up to 3 years in rural villages in order to improve administration in these communities. We empower and groom selected SVOs to effective implement water projects at their respective villages. These SVOs champion these projects, and working together with the local communities, ensure the sustainability of the infrastructure.