In the 1980s, the intensive and irrational use and development of natural resources in the mountain areas in south Jiangxi Province caused serious water loss and soil erosion. Some farming lands were desertified. The erosion resulted in ecological deterioration, which led to increased poverty in rural areas. The increased poverty, in turn, exacerbated ecological deterioration. The MRL Project was implemented in Jiangxi Province in the 1980s. The project involved selection of a typical watershed in the mountain region as an experimentation and demonstration area in which to carry out ecological agricultural modelling. The principle "harnessing the mountain should harness the poverty" was proposed. The "plant trees up the hills, plant fruit in the middle of hills, stockbreed down the hills and integrate planting and stockbreeding" model, the "pig-biogas-fruit" eco-agriculture model, the "courtyard economy" model and the "feudal economy" model were popularized and vigorously developed throughout the basin. This integrated watershed development model for mountain areas appears to be the most effective way to develop the economy in southern Jiangxi Province. The project also presents a good example for the sustainable development of natural resources and ecological protection in mountain areas in the south of China.