In the northwest of China’s mountainous Yunnan province, among the world’s most biodiverse areas, a green revolution is under way among rural residents.
In Meiquan Village near Lashi Lake, Zhang Chengui says he has been able to maximize profits by spending more time growing crops since installing a biogas digester-greenhouse, solar water heater, energy-efficient stove and rain-collecting cistern. He installed them with loans from the bank and grants from The Nature Conservancy, becoming in 2003 the first in his village to adopt alternative energy.
Since then, his income has tripled to 40,000-50,000 yuan ($5,800-$7,300), he said.
The region, which sees the crossing of three of Asia’s great rivers — the Yangtze, Mekong and Salween — is a poor one, with firewood traditionally being the source for cooking, heating and housing for half a million households. However, despite a decade-long ban on commercial logging, such a firewood-dependent lifestyle poses a threat to Yunnan’s forests and its more than 17,000 plants and wildlife, including the endangered golden monkey.