For nearly a decade, farmer Qin Bin, 50, has worked his plot, selling peaches and dragon fruit to tourists in his orchard on the outskirts of the Chinese megacity Chongqing.
But this year’s crops have been destroyed, another casualty of a blistering heat that has engulfed southern China in the country’s hottest summer on record and plunged half its land into drought.
“This is the first time in my life I have encountered such a disaster,” he told AFP.
“This year is very sad.
“We should be gathering the fruit now, but it’s all gone, dead in the scorching sun.”
South China recorded its longest continuous period of high temperatures since records began more than 60 years ago, forcing power outages that hit agricultural workers hard.
Intense heat poses a “serious threat” to the country’s autumn crops, the Chinese government said, pledging billions of yuan in new aid for farmers.
But for Keen, any help will come too late — his crops have withered on the vine and are his main source of income.
“It’s basically all dead,” he said. “The government is making a huge effort to help us, but it can only give life to the tree, not the fruit.”
He is far from the only pain in his village, the Longan home of over a thousand acres now in ruins.
“If you walk around our city, you can feel the scale of the disaster,” he says.
The intense heat forced Keen and fellow farmers to work odd hours — too hot to labor during the day as the mercury soared past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).
Instead they work at night — from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. — and rest during the day.
“It’s impossible to work in the garden, because the soil temperature is about 60 degrees Celsius… we measured it the other day,” he explains.
But if the drought continues in the coming months, what they can save may be for naught.
“If some of them had said that if the heat had lasted until September 4, it would probably have killed more than half the trees that we put in the day-and-night rescue efforts,” Keane said.
“It’s very sad to witness.”
Keen is skeptical that much can be done to help his stricken community — with so much land damaged, he says, authorities have a huge task on their hands.
“Those who can save themselves are doing it,” he says.
The effects of the drought will continue until 2023, as his withered trees struggle to bear fruit.
“My plants will not flower well next season, and the fruits will suffer greatly.”
All they can do for now, he says, is wait for rain.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)