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Environmental protection closely linked to farmers' economic lifeline
( 2002-07-23 09:43 ) (1 )

Chinese farmers are becoming more environmentally aware and benefiting from the nation's conservation policy as efforts to tackle serious soil erosion accelerate.

Soil erosion deprives the country of more than 66,700 hectares of land each year.

Now China is implementing a policy of contracting, leasing and auctioning rights for the use of wasteland.

Chen Yirong, a farmer in East China's Jiangxi Province, is making an annual income of 20,000 yuan (US$2,409) by growing sweet bamboo shoots on the 3.3 hectares of riverside land he rented three years ago.

In his hometown of Shicheng County, there are many low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding in the rainy season.

It is a typical example of serious vegetation deterioration in Jiangxi, a province long plagued with soil erosion.

Yao Yichen, an expert with the provincial department of water conservation, said deforestation to create farmland in some poverty-stricken areas has resulted in increased soil erosion, which will inevitably deepen poverty among farmers.

"Only when production and preservation of biodiversity are in balance can soil erosion be completely controlled," Yao said.

Provincial authorities said a healthy method of agricultural production aimed at soil and water conservation has taken shape in the southern regions of Jiangxi.

The county government of Shicheng has put all the drainage areas of small rivers, river beaches and pool areas under soil erosion control efforts.

The county has divided these areas into 137 ecological strips and entrusted farmers with exploitation rights together with responsibilities for erosion control.

Chen Yirong's success story of making money from wasteland has encouraged more than 4,000 farmers in his county to join the ecologically friendly programme.

Exploitation rights for more than 186.7 hectares of such land have been given to local farmers.

Farmers, advised by agricultural technicians assigned by local governments, take into consideration not only planting and livestock-breeding, but also afforestation and water conservation.

The ecological strips in Shicheng County are now covered with trees and blessed with enough water for irrigation.

Other provinces with serious soil erosion, such as Shaanxi and Gansu in Northwest China, have also adopted similar measures.

Nationwide, such programmes have attracted more than 10.8 billion yuan (US$1.3 billion) in investment. A total of 8.78 million rural households have joined in conserving the land, bringing 12.7 million hectares of once-eroded land under control.



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