Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Putting up a green shield against the Mongolian desert

Manipadma Jena in IPS: ...Lianjun’s half hectare of farmland sports neat spaced-out rows of maize crops, as in that of Hua Limei, his neighbouring farm owner, and most others on that stretch. “We earn around 400 yuans (63 dollars) from each harvested mu (15mu equals one hectare),” Limei tells IPS.

...It’s hard to believe that these farmlands and Taipingdi township were harsh sandy deserts just 60 years back. At that time, less than 66 hectares of forest were edged in by 4,500 sand dunes. Lianjun’s grandfather barely eked out a fourth of what he harvests today. Today deep forest belts shelter 10,000 hectares of Taipingdi farmland.

...As the sand progressively degrades the farmland, growing poverty creates a vicious cycle. “The poorer the farmer, the more he’s desperate to get from the land. Consequently over-farming leads to worse degradation and he loses more than he gains,” 34-year old BaoYongxin, an activist farmer from Aohan county tells IPS in Chifeng city.

...At the forest department training centre they were told about various conversion methods: covering the shifting sands with a plastic net; chemical treatment to bind the surface sand; and containing sand mobility by regular interval fencing with shrubs, stone and straw.

The Aohan community chose a combination of mechanical and biological measures to re-vegetate and reforest its land. The checker board method, after the dunes had been somewhat leveled by machine, was to draw three-feet squares that were then closely barricaded by 25 cm lengths of straw with half of their length secured into the sand....

A potato harvest in Mongolia, USAID photo

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