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Farmers fight back against desertification in Inner Mongolia

How Hwee Young of EPA reports from Kunlun Qi, China: Inner Mongolia, China's third largest province, is fighting severe desertification. Over-grazing, logging, deforestation of land for expanding farms and population pressure, along with droughts have steadily turned vast fertile grasslands into sandy dunes.

How Hwee Young / EPA

Farmers ride a horse and cart through the Taminchagan desert of Kunlun Qi, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China on 23 April. Inner Mongolia is fighting severe desertification.

Desertification of China's land has caused grave economic losses as farmers abandon parched lands and worsened rural poverty. Winds from the desert have whipped up sandstorms across the country.

How Hwee Young / EPA

A Mongolian ethnic minority farmer with her child on a farm in Kunlun Qi.

How Hwee Young / EPA

Poplar tree saplings that are to be used for planting trees in Kunlun Qi. Tree planting has become a key government effort to fight desertification.

China has adopted measures to stop the land degradation such as reforestation, resettling nomadic Mongolians from grasslands to urban areas and restricting grazing areas. Tree planting has become a key government effort to fight desertification and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Shanghai Roots & Shoots, are supporting the government’s reforestation endeavors. The NGO launched the Million Tree Project in 2007 in Kunlun Qi with the aim to plant its first million trees by 2014 to hinder the expanding desert. By the end of April this year, they had planted more than 600,000 trees.

How Hwee Young / EPA

Local farmer Chen Guo fen holds her daughter as they look around at their field where volunteers of non-government organization Shanghai Roots and Shoots are helping to plant tree saplings in Kunlun Qi.

Local farmers take care of the trees on plots of land allocated by the local government where they are licensed to harvest the trees that have reached maturity, but only on the condition that they replant on the same plot. Many farmers have embraced the tree planting initiative, seeing it as a win-win situation that protects their crops and provides economic rewards. "It is good to plant trees to preserve our land and save them for the next generation," says local farmer Wang Xide.

How Hwee Young / EPA

A lone poplar tree stands in the Taminchagan desert of Kunlun Qi.