HARBIN, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- It stopped raining before Fan Wenling woke up and put on her jacket. She took a bag, started her motorcycle and quickly rode towards a forest outside the village.
Fan was hurrying to pick the best mushrooms to sell at the highest price. Many villagers like Fan pick mushrooms in Daqiao Village in the Mongolian Autonomous County of Dorbod, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
Located on the edge of Horqin, China's largest sandy area, a large part of the village was covered by sand in the 1970s. Villagers were plagued by frequent sandstorms, and it was almost impossible to grow crops.
In 1978, the Chinese government launched the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program, aiming to curb desertification and soil erosion. Expected to be completed by 2050, the project consists of afforestation in northwest, north and northeast China.
Four decades later, forest now covers 12,000 hectares in the village. Moreover, villagers have found that picking mushrooms in the forest can be a source of income.
"Fresh mushrooms with dew!" Fan said as she sold freshly picked mushrooms in a local government vendor zone.
Fan says she earns up to 300 yuan (43.3 U.S. dollars) a day selling mushrooms. She has already earned more than 20,000 yuan this year.
"I can pick mushrooms from spring to mid-autumn and still harvest some in late autumn when temperatures can fall below zero degree Celsius," she said.
"You could never imagine that the forests would not only improve the environment and curb desertification, but also bring extra benefits. Without the mushrooms, my family would never be able to get out of poverty."
Daqiao Village has the name "mushroom village," as nearly two-thirds of villagers have escaped poverty by picking mushrooms, with each household earning over 10,000 yuan every year.
From 2004 to 2016, areas implementing the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program recorded 199 billion yuan of non-log production, and rural residents in some areas saw a 50 percent income increase from the forest, according to the National Bureau of Statistics,
"Don't pick those mushrooms with mud. Try to find those plump ones," said local villager Cao Yuquan.
Cao said that he had planted over six hectares of poplars, which would be sold for more than 600,000 yuan in 20 years. "I will earn an extra 20,000 to 30,000 yuan annually from the mushrooms if everything goes well."