（Photo By Deng Jia / Asian Development Bank）
The decision raised construction costs by almost 8 million yuan.
In return, the temple authorities persuaded people to embrace the project. Jainca was the first county to complete land acquisition for irrigation ditches, said Zhou Zhilong, head of the foreign-funded projects office in Jainca.
To boost water-use efficiency and farmers' management skills, 12 water users associations have been founded in the three counties and another 30 are being established.
Hualong, Jainca and Xunhua are home to people from the Tibetan, Hui and Salar ethnic groups, which are male-dominated societies in which women are discouraged from participating in public affairs. However, women account for more than 30 percent of the associations' membership.
Following the training program, the women's irrigation skills will allow them a greater say in agricultural activities and social affairs.
They will also be able to oversee the fields because the concrete conduits will not be washed away like the earth ditches they will replace, which means men will not be needed to maintain them.
New ideas, new lives
In a bright, warm greenhouse, a sprinkler system was watering 40-day-old pepper seedlings grown by The Yellow River Vegetable Basket.
Ma Jin, the company's marketing manager, said a stable water supply will allow enough vegetables to be grown to meet the needs of Qinghai and Lanzhou, capital of Gansu province, while the use of greenhouses will enable the company to grow and sell vegetables out of season.
Every day, the company hires about 200 farmers to help cultivate the crops, and they can also earn money by selling the company the right to use their land for agricultural purposes while retaining ownership.
As smallholdings are being consolidated into larger farms, technology is being introduced to develop mechanized, modern agriculture, which is more efficient and profitable.
"The project is not only bringing new techniques, but also new ideas," Qiu said.
Gyatso said the extra, cheaper water that will soon become available means his family will not only plant traditional winter wheat this fall but will also grow vegetables to sell in the hope of seeing their income rise and their living standards improve.