Restoring China's Loess Plateau
March 15, 2007
Home to more than 50 million people, the Loess Plateau in China’s Northwest takes its name from the dry powdery wind-blown soil. Centuries of overuse and overgrazing led to one of the highest erosion rates in the world and widespread poverty.
Two projects set out to restore China’s heavily degraded Loess Plateau through one of the world’s largest erosion control programs with the goal of returning this poor part of China to an area of sustainable agricultural production.
More than 2.5 million people in four of China’s poorest provinces – Shanxi, Shaanxi and Gansu, as well as the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region – were lifted out of poverty. Through the introduction of sustainable farming practices, farmers’ incomes doubled, employment diversified and the degraded environment was revitalized.
World Bank Contribution
First Loess Plateau project: out of US$252 million (actual project costs), IDA contributed US$149 million; government/counterpart funding US$103 million. Second Loess Plateau project: IDA contributed US$50 million; IBRD US$99 million; and government/counterpart funding US$90 million. (China was still eligible for credits from the International Development Association, the World Bank’s fund for low-income countries, when the projects were approved.)
The physical and economic transformation of the Loess Plateau offers the clearest demonstration of what can be achieved through close partnership with the government, good policies, technical support and active consultation and participation of the people. IDA resources – through direct investments, policy and technical assistance, training, capacity building and the efforts and behavioral change of the people in the project area – helped demonstrate the effectiveness of a model that improved the lives and livelihoods of more than 2.5 million people, and many more through replication.
Training and support services helped enhance existing research and development capacity in dry-land farming techniques, grassland improvement, orchard and livestock management and impact monitoring and evaluation.
The projects’ principles have been adopted and replicated widely. It is estimated that as many as 20 million people have benefited from the replication of the approach throughout China.
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