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Chinese woman fights against desertification for 30 years, turning sands into forest

By Ren Shanshan, Zhou Feiya (People's Daily Online)    19:02, September 14, 2017

A Chinese woman has turned a world of sand into forest after stationing herself in Maowusu Desert, one of the four major sandy lands in China, for 30 years. The heroic woman Yin Yuzhen has won more than 80 awards, including the 2010 GAIA Prize, for spreading her story across the world.

Hope for green land in desert

Desert is often described as “the incurable cancer of the earth.” Some people choose to escape from it, while the others choose to stay to make changes.

It is hard to associate Yin’s ecological park with a desert, in that it is surrounded by a green forest that stretches all the way to the skyline.

Yin’s house, located in her ecological park, looks more like a small-sized museum. Photos and certificates of merit hang on the walls, as if they are telling the extraordinary achievements made by the owner of the house.

Yin, born in Jingbian County, northwestern China’s Shaanxi province, came to Uxin Banner, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in 1985 to marry her husband Bai Wanxiang.

However, there was nothing on this barren and sandy land of Maowusu except a tree planted by Bai and his father, let alone roads and electricity. The woman once planned to leave, but she gave up the idea because of her attachment to her family.

Yin has always been a tough woman who believes that human beings should never be trapped by the sand. Inspired by a sprouting sapling beside a well, she decided to protect her family through forestation.

Shaky saplings grow into a forest thanks to persistent efforts

She and her husband bought 600 saplings in the spring of 1986 and planted them around her house. Though she had taken very good care of the trees, only 10 of them survived in the next year. But Yin saw hope rather than despair, saying it proved that trees could survive in this environment.

The couple devoted all of their energy to planting trees in the desert, shedding a considerable amount of sweat and tears. “I’d rather die from exhaustion than from being bullied by sand” was the only thing that motivated this tough woman. Finally, the shaky saplings grew into a forest.

Apart from the joy of success, Yin also had some setbacks. Once 5,000 willows planted by her family in three months were blown away by a sandstorm. Most others might have given up, but Yin, started thinking how to ensure the trees could withstand the wind. She finally found the right way to carry out forestation in the desert.

After 30 years of hard work by the Yin family, the sand world has been turned into endless green. Their endeavor not only touched Uxin Banner, but also China and the world at large.

Forge ahead despite of fame

She has received a number of awards for her efforts. She was once selected as a national model worker and was a nominee for the China Environment Prize.

In September 2010, she was invited to deliver a speech at a seminar on desertification control held in Mongolia. A month later, she received the GAIA Prize at the International Conference on Water Resource and Environment in South Korea.

In March 2012, she delivered a speech at the Ministerial Conference of the 6th World Water Forum in France. Later, she was awarded the Somazzi Prize, which is given to women involved in human rights and the protection of peace and freedom.

Being touched by this tough woman, a number of people have come to visit her. Yin said that she has received assistance from thousands of people in recent years, and she recorded all of their names in a notebook.

Some people told her that she should stop her undertaking of forestation since she has already made her name. But she says she is doing this for her descendants.

In addition to forestation, Yin is also planning to make money from the sandy land. She hopes to upgrade her ecological park so that she can plant economic crops.

Not long ago, Yin built a watch tower with the help of some good-hearted people. “My dream is to turn the sandy land into a sea of green plants,” she exclaimed, standing on the tower overlooking the field.

Uxin Banner was a national model in the 50s because of forestation and environmental transformation. Its experience was first presented to the whole nation in the 60s through a press release.

Half a century later, the people here are still making forestation efforts, introducing advanced treatment methods to the world. An ecological revolution is taking place here, and the sand-fighting stories of the Chinese people will continue.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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