About 1.3 million hectares of China's least productive farmland is to be returned to forest this year, as part of a seven-year project to increase forest coverage and improve the ecological environment.
Li Yucai, deputy head of the State Forestry Administration, signed agreements with 25 provincial governments Friday that define their quotas and responsibilities in the project.
The priority this year was to stop farming on steep slopes with an inclination grade of 25 or above, as well as on land that faced a serious desertification risk, he said.
Local authorities must ensure that they leave enough land for farmers so that they can at least grow enough food to feed themselves, Li said.
Since the project started in 1999, about 22.93 million hectares of farmland -- mostly on steep hills with serious soil erosion -- have been returned to forest, figures from the State Forestry Administration show.
(Xinhua News Agency September 23, 2006)