Grassland cultivation combats poverty and soil degradation in Tibet

By Yang Kunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/9/16
The grassland cultivation project Go Green Go Lux has grown a total of 1,500 mu of grassland in Katze county, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region in 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Lux

Situated on the Tibetan plateau, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region has long been facing pressure from extreme weather conditions and soil degradation due to overgrazing by livestock. Over the past decade, however, the region has witnessed significant improvement when it comes to both the local ecosystem and people’s livelihoods thanks to collaborative projects involving local authorities, cooperatives and corporations. 

Reversing soil degradation 

Grassland cultivation is one of the major pioneering areas that aim to combat these challenges in Tibet. 

Over the years, projects in this field have helped maintain a balance between development and environmental protection. Progress has been significant, desertification in Tibet has been reduced by 13,600 hectares since 2018, while 35,000 hectares of sandy land has been reclaimed since 2009, according to the Ministry of Forestry and Grasslands in Tibet.

The reason that so much effort has been dedicated to grassland cultivation is because it serves as an important part of the terrestrial ecosystem and plays an essential role in water conservation and forage productivity on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Rohit Jawa, president of Unilever North Asia, told the Global Times.

This year marks the ninth year of Unilever’s Go Green Go Lux campaign, one of the major corporate charity programs in Tibet that aims to not only combat desertification through cultivating grasslands, but also benefit the economy of local communities. 

“It was very fortunate that we started the Go Green Go Lux program,” Jawa said. 

“Over the past nine years, what started as a small initiative has become quite large as a total of 2,000 hectares of grasslands have been planted.”

Wu Junxi is just one of the environment experts from the Chinese Academy of Sciences that has been working with Unilever on grassland cultivation over the past 10 years. For the past decade, he has spent at least six months of the year coming up with cultivation plans that can both ease the pressure on natural grasslands from grazing, and bring more commercial benefits to local farmers. 

“In Konggar county alone, the project has cultivated a 66 hectares of grasslands as of today,” Wu told the Global Times. 

“The cultivated grass can help the local farmers and herdsmen through the winter and sometimes offer additional income through sales of grass. But more importantly, the project has also improved the local environment by reversing soil erosion. So in the long term, it provides a more sustainable way of living for local farmers and herdsmen.”

Lifted from poverty

Konggar is a great example of how grassland cultivation goes beyond protecting local environment. 

“We started as a corporate environmental program, but then we realized that raising cattle was one of the major sources of income for local farmers, so the project began helping alleviate local poverty through various ways,” Ma Wen, vice president of Beauty & Personal Care Categories for Unilever North Asia, told the Global Times. 


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.