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January 30, 2024  China Daily  

Zhuofu Grassland Revived and Thriving

Story; Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Resilience; Ecological Balance; Guizhou

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Balanced approach ensures healthy ecology, while boosting rural economy

More than 30 years of ecological restoration work has transformed Zhuofu's barren hills into grassland and boosted economic development in Weining Yi-Hui-Miao autonomous county, Bijie city, Guizhou province.

In the 1980s, after conducting a thorough investigation, Ren Jizhou, a grassland ecologist and academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, proposed improving both the ecology and productivity of the grassland.

In 1986, Zhuofu grassland was established as a testing, demonstration and promotion base for a grassland animal husbandry system project. The theory and practice developed from the experiment have since been widely applied in pastoral areas and resulted in huge economic benefits.

Ren, now in his late 90s, founded the "animal product unit" index for assessing grassland productivity, putting an end to the difficulty of comparing different animal by-products.

After aerial seeding of Zhuofu was undertaken, the sparse hills gradually became covered with grass shoots and the area eventually gained the appearance of a prairie.

Covering an area of nearly 600 hectares, the grassland now boasts around 2,000 cattle and 5,000 sheep. Animal husbandry has become a pillar industry in Weining county, Bijie, and brings prosperity to local residents. Many of them have bought cars, People's Daily reported.

Wen Zhongcheng, a 73-year-old herder, takes care of cattle in pastures for Guan Shaogang, a major cattle producer.

Wen is quite satisfied with his annual salary. "My job is to take care of 110 cattle from May to the end of October. I can earn 25,000 yuan ($3,416) every year," he said.

"When I was a child there was only weed, and overgrazing leads to grassland degradation," Wen added.

To avoid such an ecological disaster from happening again, local residents are herding according to the grassland's carrying capacity.

Guan said, "My family ranch adopts scientific farming methods by restricting herding periods in a section every three to five days, and controls the number of cattle and sheep."

The improved environment makes the cultivation of cash crops possible. In Xiejia village, Lyu Yongkun is in charge of an apple orchard.

"The orchard covers about 67 hectares and its overall output value can reach 4.5 million yuan. Thanks to better transportation facilities, it takes only one hour from Weiyuan's urban area to here. Now we can attract hundreds of tourists to pick apples every day," said Lyu.

Huang Yi, a tourist from Xiaohai township, said: "We took a group trip and picked 400 to 500 kilograms of apple. Now the trunk is full of apples."

The high-quality apples produced at the plantation are also sold in Shanghai and Beijing. Under Lyu's technical guidance, dozens of households can earn over 100,000 yuan a year in Xiejia village.

With the help of local government, each village in the Xueshan township, Weining, has its own specialty industry, including tobacco growing, chicken farming and beekeeping.

An Qingyi, director of the forestry station in Xueshan, said since 2013, the township has implemented a project to return farmland to forest and grassland. To achieve this it has planted more than 3,670 hectares of Huashan pine, 3,870 hectares of apples, 467 hectares of Sichuan pepper and over 330 hectares of walnuts.

"The key to afforestation lies in management. Otherwise, it won't be effective," An said.

To ensure the long-term and stable development of forests and grasslands, the station has formed a 267-person patrol team that conducts regular patrols to protect the mountains and grasslands throughout the year, regardless of wind or rain.

Meanwhile, the grassland has also become an ideal place for generating clean energy. It boasts the largest wind-solar hybrid power station in Guizhou that generates 450 million kilowatt-hours of energy every year. Compared with thermal power, it can save 135,000 metric tons of standard coal and reduce 350,000 tons of carbon dioxide emission, Weiyuan Daily News reported.

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