Northwest China, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region

Makit county combats desertification: Jujubes thriving

Located in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the parched Makit county and its 800,000 multiethnic people are besieged by sand. The area is encroached on by China's biggest desert, the Taklimakan on its north, south and east. When it gets windy, which is often, sands from the Taklimakan - a desert the size of Poland - turn the sky brown.

But still, Makit county also has about 37,300 hectares of jujube trees. In 2020, it harvested 260,000 tons of jujubes, a record high. The county also produced an abundance of melons, grapes and pomegranates.

Makit county's thriving agricultural production is an unlikely success that would be totally impossible without stringent anti-desertification efforts. In 2012, the county launched in phrases an ambitious project to plant 66,667 hectares of ecological forests to stall the encroaching desert and fix its shifting sands.

In the nine years since the project's launch, 220 million seedlings have been planted, with a survival rate of over 95 percent, covering an area of about 27,300 hectares, or about two-fifths of its original target. Its ecological effects are clearly visible. Annual rainfall doubled from 50 millimeters in 2010 to over 100 millimeters in 2018, while days of sandstorms plummeted from over 150 to less than 50 during the same period.



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