Since Mao’s Great Leap Forward nearly 50 years ago, China has lost an area the size of Greenland to the desert. Waking up to the scale of the crisis, the government is mobilizing people and resources on a mass scale. It aims to reclaim a quarter of a million square kilometres of land lost to the desert by 2020. China is adopting the top-down approach and claims to have halted the spread of the desert.

Jennifer Wang goes to a community on the frontline in Inner Mongolia to see what progress has been made. She reports on large scale efforts to fix the sand dunes, plant tree barriers as well as innovative ways to empower villagers and provide a livelihood for displaced livestock herders. But Jennifer Wang finds that in this part of China at least, little progress has been made to stop the desert’s advance. We see first hand the dimensions of the problem.