4 Questions to Gang Chen of the Desert Greenhouse Project
1. How did you come up with the idea of building a Desert Green House?
Gang Chen: There exist several hundred thousands of small green houses, which had been built and under continuous production and operation in China. Desert green houses have been and are being built in several desert provinces in Northern China including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia and Gansu. Xinjiang, where I live, is a part of China with the greatest desert area including the world’s second largest flowing desert – the Taklimakan desert. People in Xinjiang have been facing the challenges of reduced arable land due to desertification and the shortage of local supplies of fresh vegetables and fruits, that is the reason why I came up with the idea to develop desert green house to turn barren desert land into productive farming land.
2. What is the impact of this solution on people’s lives?
Gang Chen: The desert greenhouse solution has been successful in providing vegetable and fruit supplies
in desert areas and can also help to create many direct agricultural jobs for planting, daily operation and harvest of planted vegetables inside desert green houses. More than 30 kinds of vegetables can be planted in desert greenhouses; these include eggplants, tomato, pepper, cucumber, potato, leaf lettuce, watermelon, etc. In the case of the production of eggplants, a typical desert green house with an area of 600 square meters can produce about 7000 kilograms of eggplants annually. Based on the average vegetable consumption of 0.5 kilogram for an adult per day, the vegetable output of a typical desert green house can satisfy the need of sufficient vegetable supplies for 38 adults. Another effect that may not be as visible to the people in the first place is that it reduces desertification.
3. How long does it take to build such a greenhouse and how many people does one need to operate it?
Gang Chen: It will take about one month to build a typical greenhouse covering a piece of desert land with a length of 30 meters and a width of 20 meters. In China, depending on individual productivity, a adult farmer can operate and manage about 3 to 10 standard desert green houses, there’s also a lot of possibilities for senior people to also engage in agricultural production inside desert green houses with reduced workloads.
4. Do you believe that groups such as the “empowering people. Network” can be beneficial to developmental work? How can you benefit from the Network personally?
Gang Chen: I am sure that pertinent groups such as the “empowering people. Network”can be beneficial to the development work of the desert greenhouse due to the great economical, ecological and social
benefits produced by desert greenhouses. Personally, I can work with the interested parties and stakeholds related to the network to replicate my successful project experience within a global scope and to expand further my professional reputation and growth.
Gang Chen is the Executive Director and Desert Resources Development Expert of the Xinjiang Shawan Oasis Sustainable Development Institute, China. Till 2009, he worked as Project Manager and Research Fellow in the Xinjiang Environment and Natural Resource Conservation Research Institute in China. Furthermore, he’s worked as part-time Associate Professor of several universities in China.