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China: Mainstreaming Climate Change in Irrigated Agriculture

December 20, 2013

In recent years, water shortages threatened the North China Plain, made worse by inefficient irrigation. Watch to learn about how to solve the problem.

Through the Irrigated Agriculture Intensification III Project (IAIL3), the World Bank worked with China to help raise water and agricultural productivity and resource use efficiency, increase high quality and non-polluting crop production, facilitate adoption of techniques leading to ‘real’ water savings, and improve farmers’ livelihood and incomes, benefiting about 5. 25 million rural people in five provinces of Hebei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Henan.
5.25 million

The project benefited about 1.4 million rural households with a total of about 5.25 million rural people in 107 project counties of the five project provinces including Hebei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Henan.

Project Map

Challenge

The basin of the Huang, Huai, and Hai rivers (3-H Basin), also called the North China Plain, is China’s most important agricultural region. Severe water shortages in the 3-H Basin threatened both rural income growth and food security and were exacerbated by high levels of water pollution and potential impact of climate change. Water demand in the region was high and growing while available water resources were already allocated and overexploited. Groundwater levels were dropping in many areas, sometimes by as much as one meter per year. 

While WTO membership provided new opportunities for increasing farm incomes, the agricultural sector needed to undergo substantial structural change and modernization to take advantage of those opportunities. Agricultural practices needed to improve to produce safe, high quality and high value products which accounted for an increasingly larger share of the market. Water resources had to be used more efficiently, and agricultural pollution had to be curtailed.

Major challenges towards achieving these objectives included: the low efficiency and quality of agricultural production; low market value of farmers’ production; low efficiency of irrigation facilities; and weak irrigation management.

Moreover, the projected climate change is expected to have a negative impact on China’s irrigated agriculture, decreasing water stream flows and groundwater recharge in the 3-H Basin, while concurrently increasing irrigation water demand and withdrawals due to higher temperatures and higher evapo-transpiration (ET). Adaptation measures needed to be designed to address these impacts.

Approach

The IAIL3 project focused on raising productivity of land and water rather than on simply increasing production per se; and on enhancing market values and farmer incomes and their share of higher market values, rather than raising income solely through higher production.  The project also added important innovations to modernize agriculture and enhance farmers’ competitive capacity.

Under the project, three specific groups of real water waving measures were adopted, including engineering measures such as canal lining, construction of low pressure pipelines and use of sprinkler irrigation  and micro-irrigation; agronomic measures such as land leveling, deep plowing and use of crop residues to conserve moisture; and managerial measures such as reform of water management system and maintenance, promotion of self-managed irrigation areas through development of water users associations and provision of training in scientific irrigation system.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) under the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) supported the development of a systematic adaptation-oriented approach building on climate change impact assessments, identification of appropriate adaptation measures, and the demonstration of adaption measure in selected sites for possible uptake by farmer groups.

Open Quotes

The project has built roads, canals, bridges and floodgates, which has made farming much easier. My family has nine mu of land. We grow one crop of wheat and one crop of rice. Now the yield per mu has increased from about 600 kilos to more than 1,000 kilos, and the cost of water has been reduced by 13 yuan. Close Quotes

Liu Jun
farmer, Machang Village, Shiji Township, Jiangsu Province

Results

The IAIL3 project, implemented from 2005 to 2010, achieved the following main results:

  • The project benefited about 1.4 million rural households with a total of about 5.25 million rural people in 107 project counties of the five project provinces including Hebei, Jiangsu, Anhui, Shandong and Henan. Between 2005 and 2010, per capita income of households with high incomes increased from 2,464 yuan to 3,742 yuan; per capita income of households with medium incomes increased from 1,423 yuan to 3,067 yuan; and per capita income of households with low incomes increased from 1,135 yuan to 2,541 yuan.
  • The shift from traditional low value grain production to high value cash crops and nonpolluting, green and organic products contributed to dramatic increase in household incomes. Per capita income of households producing green agro-products increased to 4,639 yuan by 2010.
  • Agricultural mechanization and effective irrigation management by project-established WUAs helped reduce time and labor spent on agricultural operation and irrigation. As a result, some farmers could work as migrant workers to supplement their family income.
  • Water usage dropped to 3,809 m3/ha in 2010, compared to 6,892 m3/ha in 2005. Water productivity rose to 1.55 kg/m3 in 2010, compared to 1.06 kg/m3 in 2005. Canal water use efficiency increased from 58 percent to 79 percent.
  • Between 2005 and 2010, the grain production in the project area increased from 3.3 million tons to 4.2 million tons; cash crops increased from 2.5 million tons to 4.6 million tons, and non-polluting green and organic crops increased from zero to about 100,000 hectares.
  • 1,022 WUAs with a membership of 490,000, and covering about 225,000 hectares for participatory irrigation management, 207 farmers’ associations (FAs), and 20 pilot farmers’ cooperatives (FCs) were established and operated.
  • Women’s status and role in the rural communities were upgraded. The 87,245 female members accounted for 25.6 percent of the total membership of the WUAs; 837 women functioned as water user group leaders, accounting for 14.6 percent of the total; and 805 women were members in executive committees, accounting for 17.9 percent of the total.

The GEF-SCCF project, implemented between 2008 and 2012, achieved the following main results:

  • About 400,000 households in 10 project counties and the other extended areas under IAIL3 benefited either through participation in demonstrations or through the adoption of the demonstrated adaptation measures.
  • About 56 percent of the stakeholders, including farmers, WUA and FA members, technical staff and government officials, became aware of the potential impacts of climate change and the adaptation measures.
  • Climate change adaptation measures were implemented in a total of 208,152 ha of selected demonstrated areas and IAIL3 project areas by 298,732 participatory stakeholders.
  • 173 governmental official documents on climate change impacts and adaptation policies and implementation plans and technical standards were issued and published by the state, provincial and counties.
Open Quotes

With support from the World Bank loan, we have built water works, roads, bridges and culverts, which has greatly improved our production conditions. Our plantation area increased from 800 mu to 5,200 mu; membership grew from 18 to 512 households; and revenue per mu jumped from 2,000 yuan to 8,500 yuan. Now our flowers and trees are sold all over the country. Close Quotes

Xu Diansong
head of the Yaonan Flowers and Trees Cooperative, Gaoliu Township, Jiangsu Province

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank provided an IBRD loan of $200 million as well as lessons and experiences from the EU and other countries to guide the design and implementation of the project. Specific experiences transferred to China included: crop diversification, modern cropping methods and soil conservation, and market-orientation and strengthening of agricultural value chains.

The Bank provided quality supervision and specialized technical implementation assistance, especially on innovative topics like design of comprehensive water saving measures, sustainable WUAs, gender-based training, FAs/FCs and green and organic crop production and modernizing agriculture.

In addition, the project built on the successful implementation experience of the preceding Irrigated Agriculture Intensification 2 Project, and deepened the integrated program approach to irrigation investment promoted under the previous project. The project integrated the World Bank’s experience and innovation relating to water saving and groundwater management, production and marketing of non-polluting or green food, Farmer Associations (FAs) for specialized crop production and marketing. It also piloted farmer-owned Farmer Cooperatives (FCs) to improve farmers’ incomes and competitive capacity.

Partners

Based on consideration of the expected negative impact of the climate change on irrigated agriculture and the need for adaptation measures, a GEF grant of $5 million under the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) was sought and provided in 2008 to complement the project. The GEF grant supported the development of a systematic adaptation-oriented approach, identification of appropriate adaptation measures, and the demonstration of adaption measures in selected sites. GEF support was also used to modify and adjust interventions for the remaining two years of implementation of the lending project. GEF also assisted the government in incorporating climate adaptation as a core theme in China’s National Comprehensive Agriculture Development Program (CAD).

The World Bank worked closely with the State Office of Comprehensive Agricultural Development of China and project management offices at all levels to implement the project.

Moving Forward

The good practices and lessons are being scaled up through national and provincial agriculture development programs, particularly: (a) the development of available water resources and comprehensive water-saving technologies and approach integrating the engineering, agronomic and institutional water saving management; (b) adopting application of adaptive cultivation and new anti-adversity varieties for drought-, water-logging, high (or low)-temperature and disease resistance, e.g. in response to higher frequency warm winters and increased extreme events; and (c) institutional development of WUAs, FAs and FCs, and continuous participation throughout the investment program empowered farmers, scientists and government officials.

A new World Bank-financed follow-on project, namely the China-Integrated Modern Agriculture Development Project, is under preparation and will be implemented in the China’s other grain production regions. In addition, some of the technical and institutional innovations introduced are being adopted in policy, planning and investment for climate change adaptation into the national comprehensive agricultural development investment program.

Beneficiaries

"With support from the World Bank loan, we have built water works, roads, bridges and culverts, which has greatly improved our production conditions. Our plantation area increased from 800 mu to 5,200 mu; membership grew from 18 to 512 households; and revenue per mu jumped from 2,000 yuan to 8,500 yuan. Now our flowers and trees are sold all over the country.” - Xu Diansong, head of the Yaonan Flowers and Trees Cooperative, Gaoliu Township, Jiangsu Province

"The project has built roads, canals, bridges and floodgates, which has made farming much easier. My family has nine mu of land. We grow one crop of wheat and one crop of rice. Now the yield per mu has increased from about 600 kilos to more than 1,000 kilos, and the cost of water has been reduced by 13 yuan.” - Liu Jun, farmer, Machang Village, Shiji Township, Jiangsu Province.