Timberland employees from Japan dreamt of returning the Horqin Desert in China’s Inner Mongolia to its original state of verdant grasslands and forests. Twelve years and over one million trees later, the dream is becoming a reality.

In 2001, a group of Timberland employees from Japan dreamt of returning the Horqin Desert in China’s Inner Mongolia to its original state of verdant grasslands and forests. Why? To try and stop sandstorms from the Horqin Desert that deposited millions of tons of sand across cities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. Twelve years and over one million trees later, the dream has been transformed to the Timberland Forest and Timberland has signed up to plant two million more trees by 2020.
 
The pressure to feed 1.3 billion people in China has resulted in the doubling of grazing livestock in Inner Mongolia over the past 30 years. Additionally, noticeable climate change, resulting in warmer winters and less rainfall, has left the fertile topsoil susceptible to strong winds.  Imagine a desert the size of Switzerland producing sandstorms that travel more than 3,000 kilometers. That’s the challenge faced in the Horqin Desert. 
 
From the mid 1960s to the late 1970s, forest cover in the region was reduced from 16.4% to 5.2% due to human activity and natural attrition. The rapid decline moved the local government and forestry bureau to collaborative action with NGO organizations like Green Network and local citizens that resulted in a recovery of forest coverage to 17% by 2006. The goal of the collaborating partners is to reach a level of 25% coverage.

With the help of Green Network, a Japan based NGO that specializes in desert greening and desertification prevention, Timberland employees, consumers and retail partners have worked to transform 267 hectares (660 acres) of the Horqin Desert into a verdant grassland and forest. But our work is just beginning. And, it’s a small contribution to the overall accomplishments of Green Network, which has planted more than 3.5 million trees that cover more than 1,400 hectares in the Horqin Desert sine 1999.  
 
Each spring Green Network leads a team of volunteers in the construction of fences to keep grazing animals away from the planting sites. The teams also help to drill wells that support irrigation systems that provide water for the plants and trees during the May-June dry season. From late July through August, poplar, willow, plum and pine saplings are planted along with native shrubs including sea buckthorn and industrial crops such as liquorice. The replanting work helps stabilize the sand, allowing the green grasslands to recover.
 
The more the Horqin Desert greening projects are able to provide a better quality of life for the people living in the Horqin region, the more the process of recovering and sustaining the vegetation can continue. Green Network collaborates with the local community to establish an environment in which the local people, who are predominantly engaged in pastoral agriculture, can carry on with the work under their own initiative. To this end, getting the local people to understand the methods and benefits of the greening work is entrenching in the region practices that are initiated and self-managed by the local people themselves.

As Yoshio Kitaura, Green Network’s Executive Director, says, “Ultimately, the greening project needs to be run by the local people, for the local people. To achieve this, we need the local people to understand the benefits of the greening work and its significance. We also need to set up a scheme with sufficient economic backing to allow the greening work itself to continue.”

For its part, Timberland is excited about the opportunity to continue its decade-long, 1 million tree journey for another ten years and 2 million trees.

Spotlight

 

In the News: Timberland Tree Planting in Asia

Channel NewsAsia highlights Timberland’s commitment to reforestation.  From Singapore to the Horqin Desert in Inner Mongolia, members of the Timberland team in Asia are pulling on their boots and making a difference for the environment.

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