Farmers beef up ecotourism on China’s loess plateau

TAIYUAN: Yu Mingliang, a villager in Hengpo Village who performed temporary jobs for almost his entire life, now enjoys a stable income relying on the fast development of eco-tourism.
“Renting out farmland and house and being a cleaner at the ecological garden can bring me more than 30,000 yuan (about 4,617 U.S. dollars) per year,” said Yu.
Hengpo Village, in north China’s Shanxi Province, is an example of the successful transformation of a poor and barren land into a prosperous village that has developed tourism through afforestation.
Hengpo has planted more than 10,000 mu (about 667 hectares) of trees in the past decade. Meanwhile, well-preserved traditional cave dwellings in the village have attracted a 120-million-yuan investment from a local company for infrastructure upgrading since 2011.
“Our advantage is that we are only half an hour away from the ancient city of Pingyao, a UNESCO world heritage site. Many tourists come here to experience real country life after visiting there,” said Guo Xingfeng, a village official. He added that Hengpo also launched a light show during the Spring Festival and summer vacations to attract tourists.
As of 2020, the village has received more than 1.8 million tourists from home and abroad, with a total income exceeding 36 million yuan. The per capita income of villagers has also increased from 15,000 yuan to 17,200 yuan since 2016.
Located in the world’s largest loess area, Shanxi registered a forest coverage rate of only 2.4 percent in the 1950s when soil erosion and ecological fragility would take their toll.
As China pushes forward on a green and sustainable path, afforestation and returning farmland to the forest have been carried out nationwide.
Thanks to continuous efforts, Shanxi’s forest coverage rate has reached 23.18 percent by 2020, exceeding the national average.
More farmers are now devoted to eco-tourism as the ecological environment continues to improve. – Agencies