At the southwestern tip of the Tengger Desert, a bright red floats in the yellow sand.

It was the national flag planted on the jeep by Wang Yinji, a farmer in Hongshui Village, Changcheng Town, Liangzhou District, Wuwei City, Gansu Province. Under the national flag fluttering in the wind, several peasants wearing flower turbans are “pressing sand”: helping the plough to open a ditch, bowing to lay grass, waving a shovel to fill the sand, and then planting trees into fixed grass squares. When it rains heavily, the grass cubes can grow green.

“I plan to plant 100,000 flower stick trees this year,” Wang Yinji said of this year’s tree planting plan, a number he couldn’t have imagined 22 years ago. Since 1999, Wang Yinji’s family has completed nearly 8,300 mu of sand pressing afforestation, planting more than 6.2 million seedlings of various types, with a survival rate of more than 85%.

In the past 22 years, the bare desert has gradually turned green, the wind and sand have been blocked from the shelter forest, and wild animals and various birds have also come to settle down.

Wang Yinji led everyone in sand pressing. Photo courtesy of interviewee

“We can’t let the wind and sand bury our homes”

A long town surrounded by desert on three sides, wind and sand always come unexpectedly.

The Tengger Desert is the fourth largest desert in China, and it is also the fastest flowing desert, and the Changshui Village where Wang Yinji is located is only 3 kilometers away from it. For as long as he can remember, whenever the wind blows, people always squint and can’t see the road; When eating, a layer of sand is left at the bottom of the bowl; The crops in the field were beaten by the wind, and the harvest failed for years.

“The wind disappeared together, and the sand rode the wall to the house; One crop is planted three times, the wind is dead, and the wind is small. ”

This is a local slippery saying. The accumulated wind and sand are piled on the wall, and donkeys can easily walk on the roof. As the sand retreats, crops fail, and many young people have to go out to work to make ends meet.

After a sandstorm, 30-year-old Wang Yinji sat on the ground, looked at the fallen crops, and repeatedly chanted: “You can’t watch the wind and sand bury the homes where our ancestors have lived for generations, right?” “People have to have hope to live, and they have to find a way to cure this sand!”

At dinner, Wang Yinji told his family the idea of curing sand. The wife objected on the spot: “Both dolls have to go to school, the desert is a bottomless pit, if the money is invested in it, how will the life live?” The family discussed for a long time, and finally the father Wang Tianchang decided: “Baby, do it!” I’m sticking with you! ”

Father and son are pressing sand and ploughing ditches. Photo courtesy of interviewee

It was 1999, coinciding with the state’s implementation of the strategy for the large-scale development of the western region. In accordance with the policies and measures of “returning farmland to forest (grassland), closing mountains for greening, replacing grain for relief, and individual contracting”, Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces took the lead in carrying out pilot projects of returning farmland to forest and grassland. In that year, 5.722 million mu of farmland were returned to forest, and 997,000 mu of barren hills and wasteland suitable for forest were afforested.

Taking advantage of the east wind of “returning farmland to forest and grassland”, Wang Yinji plans to move some of the trees he planted to the desert, press sand and plant trees, and create a shelter forest to resist the wind and sand.

At that time, the Wang family planted more than a dozen acres of saplings, raised fifty or sixty sheep and seven or eight camels, and usually lived by herding cattle and selling trees. When Wang Yinji decided to press the sand and plant trees, he sold his family’s cows and more than an acre of national locust trees, and pooled 140,000 yuan as a start-up capital.

A few days later, Wang Yinji and his father Wang Tianchang carried tools and dry food into the desert to begin their long road of sand control in a sand nest called “Miaoerdun”.

Since April 1999, Wang Yinji has moved the remaining shuttle trees, flower sticks, jujube trees and elm trees in his family to the desert, planting a total of 2,000 saplings. “The desert needs these trees, so I planted them all year by year.” In June of that year, the trees began to sprout, but high winds and drought quickly extinguished these “seedlings of hope”, and only more than 100 trees survived, with a survival rate of only 5%.

The successive failures also attracted the doubts of the villagers, some people mocked: “Spoon (stupid) mile, throw money into the sand nest in vain”, some people questioned: “Ancestors have not cured the sand for generations, can your family do it”, some people sarcastically: “He Wang Yinji just wants to make a show!” ”

Wang Yinji’s family ignored it, still leaving early and returning late, and their steps on the road to control sand became more and more firm.

Wang Yinji carrying wheat grass. Photo courtesy of interviewee

“If you want to cure yellow sand, first make a home in the desert”

It is not easy to plant a tree alive in the desert.

The tree pit dug the day before was filled in overnight by wind and sand; The saplings that had just been planted were blown away by a strong wind; The seedlings that were hard to plant alive were sunburned to death in the hot weather for several days…

“Three points of planting, seven points of management.” To plant trees in the desert, the most important thing is water, but where does the water source come from in the desert? Wang Yinji’s family had to go back to their home 3 kilometers away to get water, relying on two camels and four buckets. Water is carried four times a day, each trip is 200 pounds, and it takes more than 3 hours to go back and forth.

In the first eight years of the sand control, Wang Yinji’s mother, Li Lanying, took the initiative to take on the burden of delivering water. Whether it is severe cold and heat, or wind and sun, Li Lanying’s thin figure will always appear on the rugged sand road of three kilometers, stepping on the desert with one foot deep and one foot shallow, swinging to transport this “source of life”. Due to overwork, she lost weight from more than 130 pounds to 80 pounds.

For more than a decade, they have accumulated more than 3,500 tons of camel pack water on the wind and sand line, traveling more than 10,000 kilometers round-trip, which is equivalent to walking from the westernmost part of China to the easternmost side, and then returning from the easternmost to the westernmost side.

In order to save water, Wang Yinji watered the newly planted saplings spoon by spoon, and was reluctant to waste a drop. Usually the water after washing the face is reserved for washing hands and watering trees, washing pots and dishes without water, and brushing directly with sand.

After a few years, they finally dug a 45-square-meter water storage cellar in the sand nest and used rainwater to water the saplings. Wang Yinji borrowed money to build a roadway and bought a Beijing jeep before he began to use small four-wheels to pull water, transport saplings and wheat grass.

“If you want to cure yellow sand, first make a home in the desert.” In order to facilitate sand control, Wang Tianchang suggested living in the desert, saving time and taking care of the saplings in time. At first, they set up a tent at the sand control point, but on the third night, they encountered a violent storm, the tent was torn apart by the wind, and the family spent the night in the icy rain.

The next day, when the rain stopped, Wang Tianchang simply dug a dirt pit more than two meters deep and ten square meters in size in the sand nest, covered it with some wooden boards, firewood and grass, and built a “nest shop”. Unexpectedly, just as they were happily eating lunch, the roof of the nest suddenly collapsed, and the child was buried in the sand, so frightened that Wang Tianchang immediately dug up his grandson. Later, they rebuilt their nests, dug water cellars, and bought pots and pans.

That desert “home” without water and electricity. They slept in earthen kangs, lit kerosene lamps, and drank cellar water. Whenever the wind blows, the “home” is full of wind and sand, and there is a layer of sand at the bottom of the rice bowl. Every day when he gets up, Wang Yinji has to shake off the bedding and the sand on his body, “feeling like a newly unearthed cultural relic.”

In the “Diwopu”, Wang Yinji’s family lived for 8 years.

Due to the influence of kerosene lamp smoke and wind and sand for many years, the Wang family often had red and swollen eyes, and Wang Tianchang even suffered from glaucoma. Coupled with the perennial humidity and cold of the “Diwopu”, Wang Tianchang also suffered from severe rheumatism and underwent two surgeries before and after. Every rainy day, his legs and feet would be dull painful, and it was difficult to walk.

Over the years, the wind and sand have left traces on Wang Yinji’s family: peeled cheeks, dark skin, palms full of blisters, barbed fingers, cracked heels…

Wang Yinji’s wife watered saplings in the desert. Photo courtesy of interviewee

“Every tree is like my son standing in front of me”

Controlling sand and planting trees is also a science, and the experience of planting trees in the past is no longer feasible.

After repeated planting failures, Wang Yinji consulted experts from the local forestry department and received guidance such as “first fix the sand, then plant trees, and different varieties of saplings should be planted in different parts of the dunes”.

Wang Yinji also often explores his own planting experience. In order to find out the flow law of wind and sand and improve the survival rate of seedlings, Wang Yinji and Wang Tianchang faced the cold wind, braved the scorching heat, carried dry food, walked on the most serious wind and sand line of quicksand all year round, carefully inspected the wind and the direction of quicksand, and looked for the best slope for pressing sand and planting trees.

Find the right tree species and location, and prevent high winds from blowing the tree down. Father and son buried wheat grass in the desert to form a square meter of grass square, which not only fixed the dunes, but also shielded the saplings from the wind. “So the sand is fixed,” Mr. Wang said.

Based on several years of planting experience, Wang Yinji also invented the “sand wood gun”: a head like a hoe, used to plane dry sand on the surface; The other is like a spear, you can drill a small hole in the sand, pour water into the hole, and quickly bury the dry sand. “Sand wood gun” can eliminate the disadvantages of loose sand layer and water loss caused by ordinary shovel digging, and also has the advantages of deep burrowing, fast speed and labor-saving.

Wang Yinji holds a homemade tool “Shamu Gun”. Photo courtesy of interviewee

Wang Yinji, who has become more and more experienced, has begun to see results, and just as they are preparing to expand the area of sand control, bad news comes from home.

The spring of 2005 was the busiest time for sand reforestation. With the expansion of the area of sand control, Wang Yinji’s family left early and returned late, and no one noticed that the youngest son’s legs and feet were abnormal. It was not until a month later, when the sand pressing was almost completed, that Wang Yinji noticed that his youngest son was not walking normally and his reaction became dull.

Wang Yinji hurriedly took the child to the hospital in Lanzhou for examination, and found that his son had a problem with the cerebellum, and the doctor suggested that they go to Xi’an to find a specialist for treatment. At that time, the family’s money was invested in the control of sand, and Wang Yinji borrowed 30,000 yuan from relatives and friends and immediately rushed to Xi’an.

The doctor’s sentence “the child is already in the advanced stage of brain tumor, and can live for up to three months” is like a thunderbolt on a sunny day, and the operation costs 25,000 yuan, which may not be cured. At that time, Wang Yinji squatted on the ground for half an hour before slowly standing up, making up his mind, and taking the child home.

He thinks it was a “bad decision” and still tears of guilt when he looks back, “If I hadn’t invested all my money in the desert, maybe I could have saved my children.” Looking at his seriously ill son, Wang Yinji once wanted to give up sand control.

That year, the 14-year-old son left Wang Yinji forever. When he died, he said to Wang Yinji: “Dad, I can’t do it. You want to cure that desert green, and if you can’t cure it, you will be very embarrassed. Wang Yinji experienced the “hardest moment” of his life.

The child was buried in the desert, and Wang Yinji hoped he would witness the results of his sand control. “At the beginning, it was my dream to fight sand, and now it is to fulfill my son’s last wish. I must finish it, or I’m sorry for my son. ”

Wang Yinji’s persistence and dedication were recognized by the villagers, and those who originally said that he was “spoonful” gradually changed their attitude and joined his sand control team. Under media reports, well-wishers from all walks of life also donated money to him.

In 2010, the Liangzhou District Forestry Bureau issued Wang Yinji a forest right certificate and appointed him as a public welfare forest steward, cashing in nearly 80,000 yuan in management and protection fees every year. At the same time, his treatment area was included in the scope of the national public welfare compensation forest, and a large number of sand pressing seedlings were allocated to support him in carrying out sand pressure afforestation.

Today, there is a white wall in Wang Yinji’s sand control area, which reads “Wang Family Sand Control District, Changcheng Township, Liangzhou District” in red letters, which is also Wang Yinji’s WeChat signature. There is an observation deck not far away, and in summer, the desert turns green, and wildlife and birds come with it.

Wang Yinji felt very cordial every time he looked at these trees, and said: “Seeing every tree in the desert is like my little son standing in front of me. ”

Green trees growing in the desert. Photo courtesy of interviewee

“My goal is to control 10,000 acres of sand”

22 years have passed, and the originally bare desert has slowly grown green. Wang Yinji’s family weaved a windbreak and sand fixation belt with a length of 4 kilometers from north to south and 3 kilometers from east to west on the mouth of the wind and sand, blocking the wind and sand.

With the strong support of the party committees and governments of Wuwei City and Liangzhou District, Wang Yinji has invested more than 1.2 million yuan to plant more than 6.2 million seedlings of various types, with a survival rate of more than 85% and more than 8,300 mu of desert treatment.

“When the tree is alive, the sand will be cured, and my goal is to control 10,000 acres of sand.” Whenever others ask about the successful experience of desertification control, Wang Yinji always frankly says that he has no culture, relying on persistence and slow exploration.

Over the years, Wang Yinji has successively won honorary titles such as “National Model Worker”, “Outstanding Communist Party Member of Gansu Province” and “Advanced Individual in Greening in Gansu Province”, but he has never stopped his steps to control sand.

This spring, Wang Yinji plans to plant 100,000 flower stick trees. Every morning at 6 a.m., he drove out in a jeep with a red flag, went to the desert to help plows and open ditches, bowed to lay grass, and filled in the sand with a spade, and was busy until 7 p.m. before returning home.

Asked about his wishes for 2021, Wang Yinji replied simply: “I just planted the tree recently, and my wish is to have a heavy rain.” In this small town with an average annual rainfall of 272 mm, what makes Wang Yinji happiest is that on rainy days, the rain can make the trees grow and wash away his worries.

Wang Tianchang took a group photo with the tree he planted. Photo courtesy of interviewee

Wang Tianchang, who is in his eighties, will also go to help. In 2019, Wang Tianchang suffered from stomach cancer and had to cut his stomach off. He still patrols the desert every day, but at a slower pace than usual. What he is most worried about is the tree in the desert, “I can live for another three or five years, even if I leave, future generations will say that this is a tree planted by Wang Laohan.” ”

In his spare time, Wang Tianchang would lift a small bench, pick up the red three-string, and sing to cheer up the tree planters while playing. Facing the wind and sand, his singing seemed to become louder:

“My family lives in Changcheng Township, close to the Yellow River. The wind blows yellow sand across the riverbank, and everyone sees it. The sun rises in the east, shining brightly in my heart. He led his family to the beach and lived in the sand nest. Cured the head of the sand slope and did not let the yellow sand go. Never let the yellow sand go to the wall, and future generations have hope. ”

Beijing News reporter Wu Caiqian

Edited by Liu Qian

Proofreading by Liu Baoqing

Source: Beijing News