An arranged marriage brought Yin Yuzhen to Inner Mongolia’s Ordos desert. Depressed by the sandstorms and poor productivity of the region, Yuzhen began to plant trees. Over 30 years she has planted a million trees in 70,000 hectares of desert. Those trees improved the soil and served as a barrier, blocking the sandstorms. She’s transformed the region, allowing a whole community to thrive in once uninhabitable conditions.
Didi Akinyelure travels to the Maowusu Desert to meet Yuzhen and the local farmers and officials who see her work as an example to the rest of China, a nation threatened by encroaching deserts and land degradation.
If we’re to feed a growing population then it’s vital that the deserts aren’t just held back but shrunk or adapted to make food production feasible. Didi also talks to the proponents of Africa’s Great Green Wall, designed to battle the march of the Sahara, and to researchers who believe that deserts can be turned into friends for mankind.
Image: Yin Yuzhen