Mongolians plant to reforest while earning money

Updated: 2014-05-27 09:06

By Xu Lin (

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Mongolians plant to reforest while earning money
Fishing in the desert 

Mongolians plant to reforest while earning money

A family art 

Mongolians plant to reforest while earning money

Bright prospects 

On a sweltering afternoon in the Alashan desert, in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, several Mongolian herdsmen dug holes in the sand, sowing saxaul seeds and pouring large buckets of water into the holes.

For them, these seeds will not only help counter desertification in the area, but also represent their hopes of making money.

The plants are part of the Seagate Ecological Forest Program started by Seagate Technology, one of the world's largest manufacturers of hard disk drives, and the China Green Foundation. The forestry bureau of the city of Alashan League is calling for local herders to join the project by planting 66.7 hectares of saxaul forests in the Gobi desert.

"It's a transformation from ecological forests to economic forests," said Huang Hong, vice-director of the foundation's enterprise cooperation department.

Unlike traditional afforestation projects, Seagate's program will bring economic benefits to the local herders because they will also plant the precious traditional Chinese medicine, desert cistanche, also known as "ginseng of the desert", which live as a parasite on the saxaul roots.

"Our programs are improving over the years. The locals will be more active to maintain the plants if they get economic benefits," Huang said.

Alashan Plateau is known as one of the cradles of sandstorms in China, and sandstorms that originate in Alashan often strike parts of North China, such as Beijing.

According to Qiao Yongxiang, vice-director of the forestry bureau of Alashan League, saxaul grows very well in the Gobi desert because it has cusp-like leaves, can resist wind and sand and prevent sandstorms. It grows widely in deserts such as those in Spain, Portugal and Turkey.

The bureau's staff will guide herders to plant saxaul, which only needs watering three times a year. Saxaul seedlings are very cheap but it's expensive to water them because water has to be transported by truck from about 20 kilometers away in the urban area of Alashan. The cost for watering one hectare of saxaul is about 900 yuan ($144).

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