By YUAN SHENGGAO
Spring is the ideal time to plant trees in Shanxi, as well as other parts of the country.
Forestry authorities in the province estimate that trees will be planted on an area measuring around 270,000 hectares this spring, according to local media reports.
Although March 12 is Tree-Planting Day in China, the tree-planting season in Shanxi can last from February to April, due to differences in latitude and altitude.
As usual, Shanxi's tree-planting campaign started from Yuncheng, the southernmost city in the province.
Senior city officials launched the provincial campaign by planting more than 300 trees in Cangfang village in Xiezhou township.
Students in Shanxi were taught online the history of the Chinese Tree-Planting Day and how the natural environment and people's lives can be changed by planting trees and grasses.
They learned that Shanxi had been suffering from environmental deterioration for several decades. This was a result of deforestation in the development of mining and agriculture.
They also learned that local residents are now making painstaking efforts to restore the environment. Tree planting is one of these important efforts.
A role model of the greening efforts in Shanxi province is Youyu county in Shuozhou city.
When the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the county's forest coverage was only 0.3 percent.
For seven decades, Youyu's 20 Party secretaries have been engaged in a constant campaign to plant trees. As a result, the county's forest and grass coverage has now reached 56 percent. This is more than double the average national rate of 22.96 percent.
It was not an easy job for Youyu to accomplish considering its tough natural environment, which features an average annual rainfall of 410 millimeters.
The situation is described in a local saying: "Growing a tree is even harder than raising a child."
"The people's determination in cultivating their homeland comes from their belief that trees can help shield them from the frequent, devastating sandstorms," said Li Yunsheng, boss of a local company that plants trees.
Li, 64, said that he began to plant trees with his parents and grandparents when he was a child.
He was the president of a drivers' training school 18 years ago and horticulture had been his main hobby. He said he was so "addicted to planting trees" that he resigned from the school and ran a tree-planting company.
Over 18 years, he invested a total of 6 million yuan ($856,000) to plant 3 million trees on nearby hills and mountains.
According to the Shanxi Forestry and Grassland Bureau, the province planted 1.27 million hectares of trees between 2016-19, costing a total of 11.13 billion yuan. Provincial forest coverage reached 22.79 percent in 2018.
With further efforts in cultivating the land, the bureau predicts the province's forest coverage will reach 23.5 percent by the end of 2020.
Li Yali contributed to this story.