Yuzhen Yin (China)



10 years later:

In late August, we visited Yin YuZhen’s Ecological Park in Mu Us Desert in Inner Mongolia and made a short video on her current life.

Yin Yuzhen is a simple peasant woman, from Uxin Banner in the Mu-Us Desert in Inner Mongolia. Since 1985, she has planted, together with her husband, 300,000 trees, thus creating countless oases of bushes and trees on an area of 40 square kilometers (equaling to the surface of Andorra). Having been working hard for 30 years, she has planted more than 100 different bush and tree species and learnt which ones grew the best. Yin thus developed a very effective method of fighting against the sand in these areas. In the meantime, she is known far beyond Inner Mongolia as a respected expert for greening the deserts. It takes a long time, but some day dew is coming, then rain, not a violent one and not often, but visibly – and then there are bees, birds and butterflies following. Today Yin’s family plants potatoes, corn, carrots and grapes.

Since 2013, she has built a large ecological tourism center. Today she is rich and has won over 60 awards at home and abroad, such as Somazzi Prize for outstanding merits for peace and human rights in 2013 in Switzerland. In 2015, she was elected as one of Ten Persons of the Year of Devotion to Homeland by China Devotion to Homeland Cultural Development Association. Inspired by Yin Yuzhen, surrounding farmers and herdsmen set off a boom of afforestation. The forest coverage rate reached 32.3% in Uxin Banner, and nearly 6666 square kilometers of barren sand around completely put on the green.

China launched the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program in 1978 as an anti-desertification effort, which consists of forestation in northern China. The latest State Forestry Administration (SFA) data showed that the forest coverage in the treated areas had increased to 12.4 percent at the end of 2012 from 5.05 percent in 1977. It is attributed to the hard work of people just like Yin Yuzhen, who does not lose heart, but just acts – simply acts.

This is how Yin is praised: “She is the epitome of courage, patience and perseverance. Her work in greening the desert commands universal respect.”


I would rather die of fatigue from fighting the sand than be bullied by the sand and wind.”

Yin Yuzhen has worked with an indomitable spirit for years, turning desert area into an oasis with more than 300,000 trees over nearly 10,000 acres. Seeking expert advice, with various other resources and by holding family symposiums, she created a scientific method for effective sand area restoration.

In 1985, Yin Yuzhen, a 20-year-old woman from Shannxi province, married and moved into the interior of Mu Us Desert in Inner Mongolia to an area named Jingbei Tang in Wushenqi. The adverse natural conditions were unimaginable and the sand was ubiquitous. All that they saw, touched, stepped on, at home or outside, was sand. The wind blew the grains into the nostrils, ears and mouth; when the storm stopped, the deadly silence was haunting; only Yin and her husband lived in that area. The second day of her arrival, she made up her mind to fight the aridity to death and not be oppressed by the abominable conditions. In the second spring of her marriage, Yin began to dig irrigation ditches for water. But the storm blew away the ditches. In the winter she bundled the sunflower stems to prevent the wind from destroying them. The following spring she dug ditches, planting 5,000 willow trees. However, the grains again destroyed her efforts. Learning from her failures she discovered scientific methods of planting trees and enabling them to survive. For over ten years, Yin Yuzhen has fought the tough weather conditions of the desert and has overcome the storms, the shifting sand and other difficulties such as the hard working conditions, inconvenient transportation and inadequate funds. She performed the miracle of preventing and controlling sand over a total area of 10,000 acres and discovered an advanced scientific method of sand prevention, which is effective for the local conditions. Never discouraged by failure, she has not only improved her living conditions and changed her fate but also motivated many peasants and herdsmen to join her in afforesting the desert. She has made an immense contribution to the project of sand control and prevention in China.

Eastern Asia | China