China: Hailan Yang

Success in controlling the desert needs the participation of people: only when there are more people taking part in this cause can there be less desert; and only the oasis can get the sand out.

— Hailan Yang

In 1997, unemployment pushed Yang Hailan into an unusual project: she established an ecological plantation in the desert to control the sand in Yongning County, Ningxia Province. In seven years she completed work on 520 mu (85,6 acres) of land. Now there are trees and forests on the once barren land, and it also grows edible crops, allowing for both an improvement in the ecological environment and local farming and husbandry.

The desert belt in Yongning County is located at the edge of the Tenger desert, where the ecological environment was very bad. For many years, both the central and local governments have invested a fair amount of money and labor to improve the situation. In 1997, the economic downturn in her company led to Yang Hailan being unemployed. She told her husband her idea of taking up projects to control the sand. However, her husband did not think this was a good idea. He was not sure whether she could make the project work for even the government had been unable to do so. The funds that would be required for such a project posed another problem. Despite the disagreement of her husband, Yang invested all her savings and loans from her relatives in controlling the sand. Once her plantation in the desert”began to develop steadily, she thought, “Why not call together all the women working in the countryside and organize them into a network for self-development?” That was when her ecological plantation in the desert came into being, and it has become a combination of making profit and protecting the environment. In 2002, together with some college professors, she carried out an experiment on breeding sheep "out of season”, and successfully realized the dream of getting the beach sheep pregnant twice in a year. This success greatly stimulated the development of local husbandry. “More people means greater power. In the process of controlling the sand, we have benefit a lot, materially and spiritually. We gain much pleasure from the work. Only when there is more oasis can there be less desert, and can we lead a richer and more meaningful life.” This is Yang Hailan’s dream.

Association of Women’s Development and Promotion in Yinchuan