My first thought was the Timber Culture Act of the US in the 1870s. The idea was that homesteaders would claim larger plots of land if they would keep it planted with trees. The program is generally considered a failure; it was cancelled after about 20 years due to abuse of the system. The final result was that the great plains are still plains and not forests, although clearly it was not carried out as defined. If the homesteaders had abided by the prescribed tree planting requirements, then perhaps there would have been a difference made. However, the same struggle would remain today, I think. How do you convince so many individuals to stick to a plan long enough to carry it out? While the Little House books are fictionalized accounts, The First Four Years describes Laura and Almanzo Wilder's attempt at maintaining one of these tree homesteads, evidently with enthusiasm and vigor. But that isn't enough to offset misfortune, and a possibly flawed premise. This article talked about some of outcomes of the Timber Culture Act: http://www.mnopedia.org/thing/timber-culture-act-1873
The reference to the Loess Plateau in China is interesting. I hadn't heard of that place before and found plenty of articles from about a decade ago talking about the success in the region, but more tempered reactions published more recently, such as http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2016/10/21/regreening-china-will-take-more-than-trees/
A general description of the process and state of affairs as of 2013 https://geog5loessplateau.wordpress.com/about/
Here is the World Bank page on their contribution for restoring the soil, which talks about the cost: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2007/03/15/restoring-chinas-loess-plateau
has an except from a national geographic feature on this, ca 2009. And another National Geographic article about afforestation as a solution to desertification https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/04/china-great-green-wall-gobi-tengger-desertification/
All of this is to say that it seems to be complex, and even once we have settled on what seems to be the best solution, we can expect resistance to putting any plan into action.