After successfully cultivating grapes in the desert, China is combating desertification by adopting advanced scientific methods to boost sustainable farming in the region.
Trials involving algae, moss, and lichen are underway in an attempt to control the spread of desert terrain and also boost agriculture in the Tengger desert, in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
“The new method shows promising results in stabilizing the desert and helping enhance the soil's fertility,” Zhang Zhishan, deputy director at Shapotou Desert Research and Experiment Station, told CGTN.
More than one-third of China's territory is threatened by desertification, affecting nearly 400 million people. The official estimate claims desert in the country is expanding at the rate of 2,100 square kilometers every year, swallowing vast tracts of fertile land.
This widespread desertification has displaced thousands of families whom the government terms as “ecological refugees.” To help them, a series of rehabilitation programs have been initiated. “In the 1980s we helped these communities to farm grapes and cultivate vegetables in the desert,” Zhang said.
"As a part of a livelihood generation initiative, experiments with growing grapes, apples, corn and wheat in the fringe desert area were carried out.
Shapotou alone cultivates around 350 hectares worth of grapes. Nearby Zhongwei City, which is facing the worst impacts of desertification, is growing grapes on some 600 hectares of land. Corn and wheat crops are cultivated on a rotational basis to maintain the soil's fertility.