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Under-forest economy prospers in Wensu by Jin Ling,July 01, 2019 Adjust font size:

“Cluck! Cluck!” Every morning, Tuowankesubulake, a quiet village in Wensu County of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the border area of northwest China, wakes to the sound of its chickens. But when you approach the village, you will see very few of them foraging for food, because most of them are hidden in the woods and grasslands.

Tuowankesubulake is covered by a large spread of orchards, which offer a variety of food sources to raise free-range chickens. But the villagers did not realize its potential to generate income until a poverty alleviation group came to their assistance.

With the help of the group, Turxun Turdi, who originally earned his living through crop farming, rented an area of walnut trees to raise free-range chickens. In 2013 he established an Under-forest Business Cooperative to enlarge the business. The cooperative provides technical support and is responsible forsales, while its members take care of their chickens. With 18 households now participating, the cooperative raised 30,000 chickens in 2017 and earned more than 200,000 yuan (US$28,900).

“Free-range chickens taste much better than factory-farmed ones,” said Turxun. “This method of farming, at one and the same time, saves on feed, provides pest control, and reduces the need for fertilizers for the trees. So it’s beneficial all round.”

With a total area of around 205,900 acres of economic forest – approximately 1.15 acres per person – Wensu County has started to develop its under-forest economy in recent years, farming mushrooms, livestock and bees as well as growing forage grass in the woods to increase incomes of its residents. To encourage local farmers to participate, the county government hasadopted a series of support policies in terms of accessing financial services, agricultural subsidies and technical guidance. Large-scale planters and breeders are also awarded for their good performance.

According to Deng Hao, director of the Wensu Forestry Bureau, there are 20 such under-forest demonstration sites like Turxun’s in the county. In addition to poultry-raising and bee-keeping, villagers also grow mushrooms, watermelons, beans, peanuts and other crops under the trees. As the under-forest economy flourishes, people in Wensu are making more out of the same piece of land.

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