Shanxi alleviates poverty through ecological restoration

A forest restoration in Luliang, Shanxi. (Photo/www.forestry.gov.cn)

North China’s Shanxi province has made progress in poverty alleviation through forest restoration.

Last year, the province lifted about 649,000 impoverished people out of poverty and reduced poverty incidence to 1.1 percent, down from 3.9 percent in 2017.

Shanxi has established more than 2,500 cooperatives to plant trees in poor counties. For each mu (about 667 square meters) of forest planted, the government will provide a subsidy of 360 yuan for the cooperative members. In each cooperative, at least 60 percent of members come from poor households.

Liu Yingming is a farmer who benefited from afforestation. Old and in poor health, it was impossible for him to secure a job in the city, so he had to do farm work at home. However, he couldn’t possibly support his family on his measly income, as his wife and mother were both in poor health and needed medical treatment.

The situation changed in 2017, when Liu was offered an opportunity to work in the village cooperative. Last year, his household was better off, with a total income of 21,000 yuan thanks to being a part of the cooperative.

To help more families shake off poverty, it is necessary to ensure that people in cooperatives always have work to do, said Zhang Yunlong, director of Shanxi Forestry Department. However, with the promotion of ecological restoration, the areas suitable for planting trees have been significantly reduced.

The government then encouraged poverty-stricken counties to restore farmland to forests for sustainable poverty alleviation. Last year, the 58 counties recovered 1.8 million mu of forest, providing job opportunities for 89,000 poor households.

In 2018, the forest area in Shanxi increased to 48.2 million mu, compared with 42.4 million mu in 2010. Ecological restoration helped 523,000 poor people achieve a steady income, with a collective increase of 1.1 billion yuan, said Liu Zhijie, director of Shanxi’s Poverty Relief Office.