Centuries of grazing in the Kubuqi Desert of China’s Inner Mongolia—around 18,600 sq km of golden sand dunes that plunge south in an arc from China’s Yellow River—had denuded the land of all vegetation. The region’s 740,000 people were wallowing in isolated poverty. But in 1988, the Chinese firm Elion Resources Group partnered with local people and the Beijing government to combat desertification.⠀
Almost three decades later, one-third of Kubuqi has been greened. Special plants have been grown to grip the shifting sands and to prevent the dunes encroaching on farms and villages. The cattle have returned and secondary industries have sprung up, with tourists flocking to new locally run hotels and restaurants, eager to explore the dunes on boards and buggies.⠀
Read more on TIME.com. Video by Zhang Chi for TIME.