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Desert Agricultural Transformation Professor Yi Zhijian in lab with colleague
and Restore Nature
2022 Finalist

Desert Agricultural Transformation

Area of Impact:
Nominated by:
International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA)

The climate crisis means more of the Earth will become inhospitable desert. But now, thanks to Desert Agricultural Transformation, barren landscapes are turning into lush, green oases.

Their Story

When fertile land becomes desert, farmers are forced to leave. Fewer farms means fewer crops, which exacerbates global hunger, particularly in the poorest corners of the world.

Professor Yi Zhijian and his team want to reverse this process. Using a technique called “desert soilization”, they are turning barren desert into productive, farmable land at an affordable cost and time.

Soilization mixes a water-based paste with sand and applies it to the desert surface, giving it the same physical and ecological properties as soil – with the same capacity for water and fertiliser retention and ventilation.

As crops grow and roots decay, the soilized sand becomes self-sustaining. The solution is proven, with 1,130 hectares of arable land roughly equivalent to the size of London’s Heathrow Airport, already created in multiple locations of desert. The technique is so effective that the yield of some crops increases even up to four times. By converting desert sand into farmable land, the solution provides secure incomes to the world’s remotest communities.

In 2023, Desert Agricultural Transformation partnered with an international enterprise in China to commercialise its technology. It has now turned 10 desert sites to arable land using its ‘soilization’ technology, and launched operations in new sites in China and Saudi Arabia.

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