China/Deforestation:

World Bank program assists rural farmers, helps combat widespread deforestation

Farmers in China have struggled for decades to grow crops in widely deforested areas. The World Bank has stepped in and sponsored a series of projects that finance and educate local farmers, teaching them best-practice methods for using the land. During today's E&ETV Special Report, E&E tours several farms that are benefiting from these World Bank programs.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: With more than 1.5 million square miles of desertified land in China, farmers here have struggled for decades to make their crops flourish. Evidence of deforestation can be found just 50 miles north of Beijing, China's capital city. To help combat this growing problem the World Bank has stepped in and sponsored a series of projects that finance and educate local farmers.

Sun Mingxian: [translation] The Forestry Bureau gives them information and an introduction to this World Bank-funded project. I was very poor and I thought it was a good opportunity to enlist. After I got involved in this project it was a little difficult because they couldn't sell the pears at first, but after awhile it became much better. I started to earn a lot. Now, I can buy equipment to help plant more trees, even motorbikes, big TVs, and a home. Now, it's much better. My life has been improved.

Monica Trauzzi: Not far from Sun Mingxian's pear farm in Lushan County, a fungus farm shares a similar success story.

Zhang Wenjie: [translation] Before, this area was a riverbed. It was basically all sand on both sides. Through implementing this program we first planted trees. We planted poplars. And then from the trees shade is created and the shade is used to plant fungus. The thing about fungus is that it requires a lot of water, so through irrigation of the fungus we are simultaneously watering the trees and the trees grow very nicely too. The other thing is, is that there are economic benefits of growing fungus, both long-term and short-term benefits. So for the farmers, they believe that this project has given them a real opportunity, because before this project they didn't have a means for raising the standard of living to a level of self sustainability. But now, from this platform, they can self sustain and they can even surpass self sustainability. Speaking from the government's perspective, it improves environmental conditions. There used to be soil erosion here, but look now, there are all these plants and organisms. The soil is kept in place and it doesn't erode any more.

Monica Trauzzi: A few miles away a poplar farm now flourishes with double the production level of just a few years ago.

Jiao Yongdong: [translation] This clone of poplars is specially selected first of all because the tree grows quickly; secondly, the whole tree can be harvested for a wide variety of uses; and thirdly, the tree is resistant to insects.

Monica Trauzzi: To maximize use of the land farmers grow crops between the trees, helping them earn an additional $300 a month. This money helps supplement the farmer's income until the poplar harvest. Once the trees grow tall enough to block sunlight the farmers raise ducks and other animals in the shaded area.

Liu Jin: At the very beginning, when they just had the chance to have the bank loan, the local people were a little bit reluctant to participate in the project because they don't know the future. Then, after they gradually planted the trees and they found out that it's a very good project, not only for the sand storm control, also for their own benefits. Now they are willing to have more loans for these types of projects. It's very good.

[End of Audio]

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