A 32-year-old farmer trims poplars at a manmade forest on the verge of Taklamakan desert in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

URUMQI – Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has turned nearly 1.2 million hectares of marginal farmland into forests by the end of 2018, local authorities said Wednesday.

The regional forestry department said the region launched the project of converting farmland into forest in 2000. Over the past 20 years, more than 1.7 million rural residents from over 423,000 households benefited from the project.

So far, nearly 13.5 billion yuan ($1.95 billion) has been invested in the project in Xinjiang. Households who participated in the project have been distributed 9.4 billion yuan in subsidies.

Xinjiang has seen its ecological environment continuously improve over the past 20 years. The forest coverage rate and vegetation coverage rate of grassland have increased steadily, the green space has expanded, and the desert area has been reduced by nearly 40,000 square km during the period.