Land degradation and climate change mean that an estimated four billion people will live in arid and semi-arid areas by 2050, with a reduction in global crop yields of an average of 10 per cent, and in some regions of 50 per cent.
To combat this, in 2010 the Inner Mongolia Lao Niu Foundation together with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the China Green Carbon Foundation, and the Inner Mongolia Forestry and Grassland Bureau launched the Lao Niu Ecological Restoration and Protection Project to provide a feasible ‘harmonious ecological and economic development’ plan for the arid and semi-arid areas in more than 50 countries and regions and their marginal areas, which account for about one third of the total land area of the earth.
Since its establishment, Four projects have been implemented. In 2010, the Inner Mongolia Shengle International Ecological Demonstration Zone project was launched in the arid and semi-arid regions of Horinger County, Inner Mongolia. Nearly 40,000 mu (about 2,666.7 ha) of degraded land has been repaired and more than 3.3 million trees have been planted, with a survival rate of over 85 per cent, increasing biodiversity from less than 30 species to more than 80, and fixing an average of 25,000 tons of soil annually. Soil erosion has been effectively controlled, and the total amount of potential soil water storage has increased from 4 million tons to 5.3 million tons. In the next 30 years, it is expected to absorb and fix 220,000 tons of carbon dioxide, of which 160,000 tons have been bought by The Walt Disney Company. On the back of the results of ecological restoration, cooperatives were established in the community, and more than 10,000 people in the 13 villages of the project benefited through climate-smart agriculture and smart grassland management. Among them, the average income of farmers in the cooperatives increased by RMB 10,492 per year. Under this approach, economic development supports ecological restoration and ecological restoration guarantees economic development.
In 2019, Lao Niu Foundation reached a cooperation agreement with the China Three Gorges Corporation and the government of Bairin Left Banner to jointly carry out the comprehensive improvement of deeply impoverished villages in Bairin Left Banner. A total of RMB 2.6 million was donated to promote 700 mu (about 46.7 ha) of dry farming in the villages of Xigou and Chagantaohai Gacha in Chaganhada Sumu. Use of full-film double-ridge furrow sowing technology means farmers and herdsmen don’t need to do much management work after planting, allowing them more time to engage in other income-increasing activities. The crop yield is 350 jin/mu (about 2,625 kg/ha), which is also a significant increase compared with the previous 250 jin/mu (about 1,875 kg/ha).
Meanwhile, the promotion of 70,000 mu (4666.7 ha) of smart pasture demonstrations in Xilingol League, Inner Mongolia increased the income of herders and created healthy and sustainable use of grassland resources. Through satellite remote sensing, meteorological data, mobile phone APP, monitoring data and other technical means, a guiding breeding plan was formulated for herdsmen to maximise the use of grassland resources and in Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province Forestry and Grassland Bureau, and the Forestry and Grassland Bureau have planted more than 30,000 mu (2,000 ha) of carbon sink forest which will allow the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in Zhangjiakou City. The trees are expected to absorb and fix about 380,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the next 30 years. The project has also created temporary employment for 54,670 people, as well as provided a good example of arid and semi-arid land restoration through nature-based solutions.
Lan Keqi is Project Manager at the Inner Mongolia Lao Niu Foundation.