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Starting at the age of 29, Wang Wenbiao’s 29-year efforts in Kubuqi has brought hope to billions of people’s new life

  • Date:2017-06-23
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        June 17, 2017 is the 23th “World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought”.

        Desertification and drought are two major problems that constrain the balanced global development. In China, two thirds of the territory is in the West and one third of it is desert, in which one third of China’s poor people live. Globally, 36 million square kilometers of land has the problem of desertification, which affects nearly 2 billion people.

        Therefore, how to combat desertification, to utilize desert and to promote economic development in desert regions to bring prosperity to all the people in these areas have become not only important issues for development of China’s western regions and China’s goal of common prosperity but also worldwide challenges.

        Mr. Wang Wenbiao, awarded as the “Global Dryland Champion” by the United Nations, is the hero who has brought hope, actually more than hope, to the above issues through his 29-year hard work in China’s seventh biggest desert——Kubuqi Desert.

A member of standing Committee of the CPPCC, chairman of the board of Elion Group——Wang Wenbiao

 

A Must-do to Rescue Himself

 

 

        Wang Wenbiao will never forget the terrible sandstorms and desperate poverty he has experienced.

        “If I’m asked to describe the flavor of my hometown, I think the word should be sand,” said Wang. One of his dreams was to get enough food and have on sand in dishes.

        Wang’s hometown, Hanggin Banner, lies in the northwest of Ordos, Inner Mongolia. During the years he lived here, it was famous for sand and poverty.

        Being called the “Sea of Death” and as China’s seventh biggest desert, Kubuqi Desert is the nearest desert to Beijing with a linear distance of 800 kilometers to the west of Beijing. A strong wind in Kubuqi Desert is very likely to cause a sandstorm in Beijing on the following day, that’s why it is a concern to Beijing.

        Poverty,which was once the destiny of desert,has been changed by Wang Wenbiao.

        Along with the terrible sandstorm were lack of water and electricity and problems of communication and transportation. Local residents had to wear hats, masks and other things to protect them from the severe environment and walk quite a long way to buy their household items; it also took them two to three days to get to a hospital. A pregnant woman who suffered from dystocia died on her way to the hospital.

        For a long time, Kubuqi couldn’t benefit from China’s opening-up and reforming or modernization. ”

        Consequently, getting away from the desert and changing the destiny of poverty became dreams for many Kubuqi young people. Herdsmen who couldn’t leave started to migrate across the desert, changing from “people who migrate with a herd of animals” into “people who migrate across the desert”.

        Instead of abandoning the desert, Wang has been working hard in the central region of the desert to change it and to improve the lives of its residents. It is because he is the hero that is sent to save this land and he doesn’t yield to fate.

        In 1988, Wang Wenbiao, who had been working in the government for many years and had a promising political career and was thought as the person who had walked out of the desert by people in his hometown, made a decision which was regarded as a silly one.

        At that time, Yanhaizi Salt Factory which was Hanggin Banner’s major financial resource was about to close down, so local government decided to find a capable person to save it. Wang Wenbiao, at the age of 29 and being ambitious, determinedly offered his plans and became the contractor,which was really a matter to him.

        The toll of that was to give up his promising political career and a permanently stable job and go back to place which everyone wants to get away from.

        On the first day of his coming, the desert gave him a warning.

        The jeep he took stuck into the sand when he was just less than 100 meters away from the factory. People who welcomed him ran to help push the jeep to the factory and he took off his shoes and coat to shake off the sand and then he finally entered his office and sat down in front of the desk that was covered with sand.

        What made it harder for him was the problems faced by the factory——18-square kilometers salt lake had been covered with sand, half of the equipment had been buried. What was worse was that the factory had an annual loss of 5 million yuan and was about to go bankrupt.

        All these problems were caused by desert which kept covering the factory. Wang realized that if they continued to focus on salt production without taking steps to prevent and control desertification, the factory, as main financial resource to local residents, would become a part of the desert.

        For the sake of the Salt Factory staffs,he decided to combat the desertification, to stop the desert from invading, and protect the sauce and production. Combatting needs money, but the factory didn’t have a special fund for that, he came up an idea that every time they sells one ton of salt, would take five RMB for controlling.

        This encountered a number of objections,basically for two reasons: First, the factory is still running at a loss, to take money out of the factory would make the business operations more serious; Second,even take this money for sand controlling ,it is just another way to throw the money into the sand.

        Wang Wenbiao withstood the pressure, and firmly implemented the plan. He firmly believed that if let the desertification drifting itself, definitely would lose, but to combat the desertification, there might be some likely hope.

        For the likely hope, and sake of the hundreds people of Salt Factory, he kept struggling.

        Green in the Desert

        People questioned Wang Wenbiao for his action in desert controlling, not because that they simply wanted to go against him, but because desert controlling is virtually a mission impossible.

        Soon Wang Wenbiao learned his lesson. However, instead of backing out or giving it up, he left no stone unturned. There was nowhere to retreat. His only way was to struggle a way for the salt factory.

        It was the way he found for himself. Willfully taking the road to his doom as some thought him to be, he named it a road back from the brink.

        The revival of people started with reviving the desert. And the revival of desert started from the revival of the greenness of liveliness, which was to plant trees and grass.

        Saving 5 yuan out of each ton of salt, Wang Wenbiao founded a team of 27 forest workers, and started planting trees to stop the desertification from the desert closest to the salt factory, shovels in hand and saplings on back, fighting at the frontline.

        Years went by, until today when everything has been changed with their efforts.

        Trees, or even grass, would not survive, so they sowed again, planted again, and experimented with every means. One method did not work, then they tried another, and one after another. Poplars after willows, windward slope after downwind slope, and year after year.……

        As if moved by their persistence, the greenness in desert finally evolved from sparks to a prairie fire. The trees and grass revived. Under their protection, in the salt factory, the sandstorm was reduced, the production restored, and the well-being of both economics and human being largely improved.

        Even those desperate at the desert started to believe that desert could be governed.

        This believe in turn made many things easier. Once a personal belief became a common belief, things became easier.

        It was with this belief that Wang Wenbiao, who had by then transformed the original salt factory into Elion Resources Group (ELION), moved on to a greater challenge, which was to improve the transportation condition of the salt factory and Kubuqi.

        The annual productivity of Elion, as much as 500,000 ton, had to be shipped to the local railway station and then transshipped. The linear line distance from the producing area to the railway station was only 60 km but, owing to the existence of desert, a detour of 5 times the linear line distance had to be made, which drastically increased the transportation cost. More severely, in times of sandstorm, even the detour could be forbidden, then the products would simply pile high in factories.

        According to a calculation of Wang Wenbiao, had the shortcut been adopted, a cost of 15,000,000 ~20,000,000 yuan could have been saved, equivalent to 70% profit.

        Apart from keeping the cost high, such transportation environment had in the meantime constrained the development of the company in many other ways, e.g. the expansion and extension of production, attracting experts and talents. Even inviting clients to the company was rather inconvenient.

        Whereas the market outside had become increasingly fierce.

        Wang Wenbiao found a highroad going through the desert necessary to improve all this matters. The aim of his action against desertification had shifted from to struggle for life to enjoy better development, from to protect the salt factory to benefit Kubuqi.

        It would be a project of critical importance if it would succeed, for which, however, too many difficulties had to be overcome.

        From the aspect of overall development, the government managed to offer him a loan of 70,000,000 yuan. Local people was greatly excited by this news. They had been keen for a road straight to the outside world for too long.

        While those close to Wang Wenbo worried for him. This plan seemed more advantageous than ever before, not only requiring much dedication, but also having no experience to borrow from others. Some even thought that Wang Wenbiao would lose everything, his wealth and even his life, in such an audacity.

        Some offered him kind suggestion not to make unrealistic attempts and some named him insane and crazy. Even his old mother gave him exhortation, ‘You are being stupid to do what nobody else ever dared to do! Do you have so much money to waste? You are like throwing your money into desert!

        Wang Wenbiao, who holds his firm belief in human efforts as always, could only tell the tale of Yugong to convince the others. ‘With faith even mountains could be removed, why can’t I construct a road in the desert with the same faith?’

        He affirmed the construction of a cross-desert road not as optional but as essential.

        Elion had to construct this road and enhance its competitiveness if it was to survive the increasingly fierce market competition. Otherwise, even if the desert would not kill it, the market would forget it.         

        On 16th June, 1997, under the help of Hanggin Banner Government and Elion, the construction of Kubuqi cross-sand highroad was launched in total excitement. An army of 1,000 road constructor, supported by more than 100 thousand town folks in Hanggin Banner, moved into the desert in three divisions, and pushed the road forward meter by meter.

        Under the belief and ambitions, has carried on another few years’ struggle and sacrifice diligently, the arduous exploration and the practice, the situation was dramatically changed. After that, in 1999, the first cross-desert road inside the Kubuqi desert came into use, paving a way out to the world for Elion and Kubuqi people who were trapped in desert.

        Moreover, it is more than a road that Kubuqi has got. It is an enlargement and development of the oasis. To build and protect a road inside the desert, there have to be desert governance and control over a larger range, and hence trees and grass have to be planted and the greenness has to be enlarged...……

        This is a road to development and prosperity, for Elion and for the whole Kubuqi.

        Just before the completion of the Cross-desert Road, a Mongoloid granny met Wang Wenbiao who was then inspecting the construction. She led her two grandsons to Wang Wenbiao and knelt down, ‘Come, kneel down and kowtow to this gentleman who builds this road. But for him you might not be able to go outside this desert your whole life!’ ”

        This 65-kilometer cross-desert road has shortened the distance between Elion and Kubuqi and the world outside, the market outside and a better life.

        Shortly after the completion and opening of the road, the market share of the flagship product of Elion topped the world. The 100 thousand farmers and shepherds in Kubuqi desert can now walk out the desert freely onto a brand-new road to development.

        Wang Wenbiao, once considered to be mad, has again changed him and his world.

        Model of Governance and Development

        When desert is turned into oasis, what is changed is not just the environment; when bumpy road is turned into thoroughfare, what is brought is not just convenience. Wang Wenbiao’s only goal of desert governance and road repairing is to let people live better lives.

        Economic base is the requirement of all.

        Thoroughfare comes with Wang Wenbiao’s coordinated development of desert governance and economic benefit and his unremitting exploration and innovation in founding Elion to lead 100,000 farmers and herdsmen to live better lives.

        Wang Wenbiao is a follower of market economy and the law of value, which he applies into his own practice, and walks out a new way of mutual promotion and virtuous circle of desert governance and desert economy development.

        Here is an example. At the beginning of planting trees to green the desert, Elion paid the farmers and herdsmen who participated in planting trees 30 yuan per day. After a while, Wang Wenbiao found that this method greatly mobilized people’s enthusiasm in planting trees and governing the desert, but the achievements were not ideal. Some farmers and herdsmen were lack of eligible planting technology and irresponsible of the planting result. Although they planted many trees, few trees survived. Such a model could not last at all.

        After he knew the weakness, Wang Wenbiao promoted a new market-oriented method: “contract system”. Elion provided technical support and contracted linked pieces of desert to planters at the price of 2,000 yuan per mu (area unit, 1mu = 666.7 m2). He set a survival rate of 85% as an assessment target. The term of contract was three years, and the assessment was carried out each year. Payment would be deducted if the survival rate was not reached.

        Such adjustments soon changed the situation. Elion led farmers and herdsmen to learn and innovate, which greatly increased the survival rate of planting and made planting a profession and occupation for farmers and herdsmen.

        Just this program alone has brought steady income for thousands of families, and nurtured a professional planting and desert governance team of over 5,000 members.

        By arousing the enthusiasm of planters, Elion also surprisingly gained many advanced technologies and models originally innovated by farmers and herdsmen. Elion’s unique skill of planting in the desert -- “Airflow Method” afforestation technology, just came from such original innovation.

        One day, a manager from Elion found that a planter used a water pipe to wash out a deep hole. The planter inserted a sapling in the hole, washed out another deep hole, and inserted another sapling ………

        This planting method is much more efficient than using a shovel to dig a hole in the sand and then planting a sapling in it. According to observation over time, the faster planting method also ensures higher survival rate.

        The news was heard by Wang Wenbiao. He immediately took along technicians and find out details from the planter who invented this method. The method was quickly optimized and promoted. Up to now, this planting method alone has saved over one billion yuan for the greening process of Kubuqi.

       Depending on the wisdom of farmers and herdsmen, Wang Wenbiao continuously changed the ambition and blueprint of governing the desert into advanced governance models and technologies. He also extended sand governance from protecting the factory to protecting the roads, rovers, and finally to reshaping the ecological environment of entire Kubuqi. He led the local people from governance to utilization, from simple utilization to high-level comprehensive development. He found out a new way of constructing engineering and agriculture, governing desert and nurturing people, benefiting people and enriching people.

       During the process of building the desert-crossing highway, Elion tried to plant liquorice to consolidate the virescence on both sides of the highway. Liquorice is kind of traditional Chinese medicinal material of high economic value. After trial planting in a small scale, Wang Wenbiao came up with an idea. He encouraged the farmers and herdsmen in the desert to plant liquorice which could not only green the desert, but also bring income for the local people.

        This program integrated desert governance with industry development. The desert became oasis and a traditional Chinese medicine base was built.

        After that, Elion also successively introduced other plants that are suitable for growing in the desert such as cistanche and sacsaoul. Meanwhile, Elion initiated mergers and acquisitions of multiple pharmaceutical enterprises and medicine circulation enterprises, and formed a brand new industry: planting, processing and operating green desert traditional Chinese medicinal materials. Elion also founded a research institution of desert health industry to develop desert medicine and health food and form an industry chain of green desert traditional Chinese medicinal materials.

        Becoming aware of the benefits of desert economic models, Elion constantly explore new ways such as ecological photovoltaic industry of “desert governance + electricity generation + planting + breeding + poverty relief”, desert ecological tourism that integrates experience, learning and education, and so on. With the industry chain being extended, Elion and farmers and herdsmen from Kubuqi are also making progress in co-governance, joint development, and common prosperity.

        Thanks to its ever-growing economic strength, Elion strives to improve both the natural and the living environment to ensure sustainable development. With the help of the government, Elion focuses on housing, medical care, and education to bring fundamental change to Kubuqi.

 

        In 2006, under the support of Hanggin Banner Government, Elion boldly attempted to implement eco-migration. Elion invested to build Elion New Village in Daotu Village which accommodated the herdsmen that scattered in the 600,000 mu desert. Elion helped the herdsmen to end the nomadic life and start the life of city dwellers. The herdsmen started intensive production and settled life. The desert also embraced a chance to rehabilitate and take spontaneous recovery.

       After that, one and another herdsmen new village and ecological towns were built. Primary schools, middle schools, occupational schools, and hospitals were founded. The former desert started to take a brand new outlook, and march on the road to modern civilization./span>

       So far, Elion has accumulatively governed the desert of over 6,000 km2, which account for 1/6000 of the global desertification area./span>

       To turn the 6,000 km2 desert into oasis, Elion built five desert-crossing highways whose length totals more than 300 km. One desert-crossing highway brings one liquorice belt. One liquorice belt brings one ecological chain. One ecological chain brings one industry chain. All these efforts made Elion grow into a world-class enterprise, and made 100,000 farmers and herdsmen bid farewell to generations of impoverished lives.

        The world-renowned “Kubuqi Model” thus comes into being./span>

        Benefit the World

        Wang Wenbiao said, “ 'the Kubuqi model' is a multi-party participation and multi-win-win model, in short, is to cover the desert with greenery, to optimize the environment, to achieve prosperity both in people and enterprises.

     “In this model, 'Desertification Controlling, Ecology, Industry, Poverty Alleviation' not a single one aspect can be omitted. Improve ecology by controlling desertification, drive the masses out of poverty by developing ecological industry. Enterprises also have created a better economic benefits.”

       Multi-win-win situation, is the original motivation of Wang Wenbiao, it get him more support for his strive, also add more meaning. Hundreds of millions of desperate people living in desert, because of that, a glimmer of the fate lit up.

       In addition to the sense that in the interest of the current and future generations; perseverance, struggle arduously; the key is the support of government and the people, and continuous innovation and progress of Eco-Elion.

       Wang Wenbiao said, “There will be no way for us to cast these ambitions without the government and people's support and help, either will no Kubuqi’s development." Without innovation and progress, there will not be any change of Kubuqi.

         Eco-Elion’s innovations include:

        Innovation in Science and Technology R & D. Since 1988, the Group has invested a total of 1 billion yuan for scientific and technological research and innovation. So far, Eco-Elion has successfully established the world's first enterprise founded Desert Research Institute, the global soil and geographic information large data and microbial database, built the largest northwest China's germplasm resources library, developed 127 ecological planting and industrial technology. Cultivated more than 1,000 cold-enduring, drought-enduring, salt-enduring and alkali-enduring seeds, has become the Group that process the most advanced desertification patented technology of the world, as well as sand control resources and means.

        Innovation in distribution mechanism. Over the years, Eco-Elion can lead and tie everyone to strive together, gain achievement that an enterprise improves the performance of a region, "one person employment, one out of poverty", largely rely on the "company + base (cooperatives) + farmers" model, as well as the mechanism innovation that farmers and herdsmen to become shareholders, partners, industrial workers of the enterprise.

        Ecological innovation. Eco-Elion rediscovery and positioning Kubuqi based on ecological protection area, ecological transition zone, ecological development zone. On the foundation of desert ecosystem restoration, practise intensive cultivation, to make great profit, Eco-Elion developed a desert ecological industry development concept that "to ask green from desert, to ask land from greenery, to sak water from wether, to ask electricity from light", Both the effectiveness of desert control significantly, but also to keeping desert economy continue to thrive.

        Innovation allows Eco-Elion to improve itself, and to make progress endlessly, then effect of improvement continue to expand to benefit a wider crowd.

        2Since 2007, the United Nations has chosen Kubuqi as location of the only international conference forum for international desertification and desert economic development in the world. Kubuqi has thus become the benchmark for desertification controlling in the world and the important platform of the United Nations to combat desertification. In 2013, the United Nations wrote Kubuqi forum into the resolution.

        Therefore Wang Wenbiao's path of improvement become more and more broad.

        In 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Wang Wenbiao won the "Environmental and Development Award", which issued by the UN. In the next year, the United Nations Environment Program took Kubuqi desert ecological management area for "global desert eco-economic demonstration zone", and presented to Wang Wenbiao first "global sand control leader award".

        Wang Wenbiao made a promise to the world on United Nations podium in 2012, "In the next 10 years, we will contribute another 10,000 square kilometers of desert oasis for the world."”

        At present, Eco-Elion has optimized and replicated the "Kubuqi model" in the western desert, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Hebei Zhangbei area, and conducted the "50 + 50 + 150" overall poverty alleviation plan through the implementation of the licorice poverty alleviation project. Alpine areas of ecological poverty alleviation, and large-scale PPP ecological restoration projects, etc., so that more desertification areas become the next Kubuqi, to a comprehensive well-off Kubuqi.

        201737日,On March 7th, 2017, the twelfth National People's Congress five meeting news center invited Liu Yongfu, the State Council Poverty Alleviation Office Director, answered questions from journalists both domestic and abroad related to "Poverty alleviation work".

        When an American journalist asked about the prospects for the development of China's ecological poverty alleviation, Liu Yongfu introduced Wang Yibiao and Eco-Elion Co. Ltd. as a model of China's ecological poverty alleviation, to the world:

        "Inner Mongolia has a private enterprise called Eco-Elion, Chairman Wang Wenbiao, he have been worked on desertification control in the Hanggin Banner for more than 20 years, the enterprise combined enterprise development with ecological management, and now the desert industry developed, the surrounding poor people brought up, they are out of poverty.”

      On June 28, 1995, Eco-Elion Resources Group was formally established.

      At that time, Wang Wenbiao's goal is struggling for 5 years to make the company's profits and taxes to break through one hundred million, therefore he named the group: Elion (亿利),which means one hundred million of profits in Chinese.

        Today, the name of has been given new meaning: that is to do more favorable things for the hundreds of millions of people who are suffering global desertification.