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China honors its promise to protect nature

By Liu Wei and Li Mengxin | China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-23 08:23

Improving local lives

In December 2016, after two years of research and negotiations, the Paradise Foundation, an NGO in Beijing, signed a 30-year agreement with the reserve and the Jilin government to establish the Xianghai Ecological Protection Center.

The center, which covers half the reserve's core zone, is directly managed by the foundation and supervised by the local government.

When Wang was appointed as director of the center, the first thing she did was to visit a number of nearby villages to learn about the needs of local residents.

"Wang and her team always come to talk about the importance of ecological protection, so I know that wetland acts as the Earth's kidneys. Now they are looking for good ideas to improve our lives," Zhang said.

The center adopted a two-pronged approach: first, local villagers were recruited to form patrols and crack down on poachers, which created jobs; second, environmentally friendly industries were established, such as growing organic grains and breeding chickens that are native to the area.

Despite Wang's efforts, most villagers still sit on the fence, apprehensive because of their inexperience and the bleak market prospects.

Zhang was one of a small number of residents who agreed to breed the chickens.

"I believe in the concept of ecological protection. For the sake of our descendants, we need to make changes," he said.

Ecological breeding demands zero use of chemicals and fertilizers. Zhang bought 500 chicks and raised them in a 6-hectare wooded area he owns. More than 100 died because of low temperatures, disease and predators, but after careful calculation of the costs, Zhang is still optimistic regarding profits.

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