Nature-based Solutions in Inner Mongolia: Restoration by Design

Publicado: 24 Septiembre 2021
Última edición: 06 Febrero 2023
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The Nature Conservancy partnered with government agencies and philanthropic partners to restore degraded land in Inner Mongolia, leveraging a Restoration by Design approach to pinpoint Nature-based Solutions (NbS) for maximum impact, build resilience against climate change, and strengthen community livelihoods and wellbeing. This “Restoration by Design” approach was first leveraged in Helinge’er County in 2010, a typical agro-pasture ecotone in central Inner Mongolia. Over 10 years, TNC and partners carried out innovative approaches, such as carbon sink trading, meteorological apps for grassland management, and “dry farming” techniques for sustainable farmland management, all of which have become common practice of the local people in Helinge’er. RbD activities resulted in restored ecosystems, a decrease in sandstorm impacts, and more efficient use of natural resources in farming, among other benefits. TNC is now promoting RbD to the broader areas of Inner Mongolia with three more project sites in the works.


Asia del Este
Scale of implementation
Campos de cultivo
Ecosistemas de pastizales
Pastizales templados, sabana, matorral
Adaptación al cambio climático
Ciencia y investigación
Conocimientos tradicionales
Fragmentación del hábitat y degradación
Gestión de tierras
Manejo de bosques
Medios de vida sostenibles
Mitigación del cambio climático
Poblaciones indígenas
Salud y bienestar humano
Servicios ecosistémicos
Standards/ certification
Incremento de temperatura
Degradación de tierras y bosques
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Pérdida de ecosistemas
Contaminación (incluida la eutrofización y la basura)
Cosecha insostenible, incluida la sobrepesca
Falta de acceso a financiación a largo plazo
Falta de oportunidades de ingresos alternativos
Cambios en el contexto socio-cultural
Falta de capacidad técnica
Desempleo / pobreza
Sustainable development goals
ODS 1 - Fin de la pobreza
ODS 2 - Hambre cero
ODS 12 - Producción y consumo responsables
ODS 13 - Acción por el clima
ODS 15 - Vida de ecosistemas terrestres
ODS 17 - Alianzas para lograr los objetivos
Aichi targets
Meta 4: Producción y consumo sostenibles
Meta 5: Pérdida de hábitat reducida a la mitad o reducida
Meta 7: Agricultura, acuicultura y silvicultura
Meta 8: Reducción de la contaminación
Meta 14: Los servicios ecosistemicos
Meta 15: Restauración de ecosistemas y resiliencia
Meta 18: Conocimiento tradicional
Meta 19: Intercambio de información y conocimiento


Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China
Horinger County, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China


Over a long period of time, unsustainable land use (overgrazing, inappropriate land reclamation and cultivation, excessive forest logging and excessive use of water resources) and changing climate have damaged the fragile ecology of Inner Mongolia, resulting in land degradation and the loss of ecosystem service function. Furthermore, climate change is further intensifying the impact of human activities. Both historical data & observation and future simulations have predicted the dry-warming trend in eastern and central Inner Mongolia. The alarming consequences of water shortage and desertification, which will pose an immediate threat to local ecology and production, and people’s livelihood. 


Local farmers, herders: improved soil health; more efficient resource use; resilience to climate change

Community: pride & connection to restored land; ecotourism/education destination; reduced impact from sandstorms

Government: motivation to conserve nature

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

Restoration by Design (RbD) is a conservation approach that allows multidisciplinary teams to a) pinpoint areas of high return for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and ecological restoration b) apply targeted NbS that will benefit both nature and local communities and c) help areas mitigate and adapt to climate change. Crucially, these building blocks must consider the interests and risks of the local community at every level in order to build trust and help local communities build a climate-resilient future in their homeland. RbD is an approach that can be applied by any conservationist working in partnership with local communities, NGOs, government groups, and civil society organizations.


These five building blocks are interactive and iterative – and we continue to learn from each of these stages and apply findings throughout the lifecycle of the project. 



Environmental benefits:

  • Afforestation preservation rate has been maintained above 85%
  • Undergrowth vegetation coverage increased by more than 60%
  • Grassland productivity per unit area increased by 60-94%
  • Plant diversity increased from ~ 40 to 80 species; significant for arid and semi-arid areas
  • Soil health has significantly improved
  • Demonstration area absorbs 5,463 tons of CO2 annually, fixes 25,000 tons of soil, and controls soil erosion

Social and economic benefits:

Helinge’er is the focus of government-led poverty reduction efforts. Many people live below/near the poverty level, especially within our project site.

  • 18 long-term jobs
  • Short-term and seasonal work: 1.14 million working days for 10,000+ people (2,690 rural households) with historically little access to additional income. 
  • Thousands of farmers in nearby communities improved household income after adopted our new techniques by 2,000 yuan (~ $308 USD) annually, about a 20% increase.


Climate, Community and Biodiversity

TNC partnered with The Walt Disney Company on forestry carbon sink trade in the international voluntary carbon market. The 3 million planted trees are expected to capture more than 160,000 tons of carbon sink over the next 30 years, and the project, the first ever in Inner Mongolia, has been awarded Gold Level CCB Certification by the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA).


The COVID-19 pandemic upended our worlds and daily routines. Due to containment measures, many people—particularly university students, migrant and seasonal works, and underemployed people—were forced to return to their hometowns for an extended period of time. The same was true in Inner Mongolia and in the surrounding communities of Helinge’er where TNC leads Restoration by Design conservation work.

Helinge’er has historically experienced a high rate of poverty, forcing many people to leave for extended periods of time to seek work and education. With COVID restrictions in place, many community members were encountering the benefits of a decade-long conservation effort for the first time. They were spending more time outside and able to witness how barren lands have turned into layers of green with increased sightings of wildlife such as red foxes, rabbits, pheasants, roe and deer. The dust storms that overcast the Spring skies and caused physical discomfort for people were now gone.

Seeing the regenerative potential of the ecosystem and Nature-based Solutions has sparked reconnection to this ecosystem. Young people now feel connected to their land, their heritage, and their culture like never before—and they are beginning to see a future for their lives on the homeland.

TNC Inner Mongolia work has proven to be successful because it takes into consideration of local people’s experiences from the early planning stage. Our fieldwork investigations and community surveys reinforced what we had learned through literature and scientific reviews: climate impacts are not only felt by the land, but the people who live there too. We learned what challenges farmers, herders, and communities’ members were facing as a result of environmental degradation and helped them see how NbS could alleviate those problems. 

Today, people visit Helinge’er to witness the dramatic improvements of the land, which stand in stark contrast to nearby degraded systems that have not been involved in conservation work.

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Sargai Sha The Nature Conservancy