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China: Poverty Alleviation through Community Participation

April 9, 2013



With the support of the World Bank and other development partners, about 1.4 million poor people in 18 nationally designed poor counties in China’s Sichuan, Yunnan provinces and Guangxi autonomous region benefited from improved livelihoods security and access to basic services through investments in rural infrastructure and other activities. The project also explored, developed and promoted a number of approaches to poverty reduction.

Challenge

China’s success in reducing poverty over the last three decades has been remarkable and is well recognized globally.  The number of poor in China living on less than $1.25 per day fell from 835 million in 1981 to 208 million in 2005. 

However, the remaining poor are harder to reach as they are less concentrated in a specific location and are more dispersed in remote and inaccessible areas.  Most of the remaining absolute poor are rural inhabitants, and about 80 percent of these poor reside in the western and central provinces.   In addition, there is less responsiveness of poverty reduction to economic growth.  It is becoming more costly to reduce poverty further using conventional approaches. 

Ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities are known to represent a highly disproportionate share of the rural poor. Ethnic minority groups make up less than 9 percent of the total population, but were believed to account for about 40 percent of the remaining absolute poor at the time of project appraisal, and often lived in the deepest poverty.

Similarly, people with disabilities and households with disabled members represented a large and rising share of the poor. It was believed that people with disabilities comprised about one-third of the remaining rural poor. In poor areas, there was a mutually reinforcing relationship between poverty and disability.

 Solution

The project rolled out a participatory approach on an unprecedented scale in China, involving a large number of remote villages in participatory planning and decision making. The project activities were determined by the communities and households from a highly flexible menu of options through a participatory process.  The project also had a specific gender focus and effectively reached out to women through the participatory approach.

The project supported basic rural infrastructure (such as rural roads, water supply and sanitation, small water conservation schemes, rural energy, and rural electrification and telecommunication networks), basic education and health services, as well as sustainable mountain agriculture to provide income generation opportunities to remote areas that were rarely reached by other support programs.

The project had a unique outreach to ethnic minorities in the three project provinces.   It was one of the largest poverty projects targeted to ethnic minority populations in the Bank.   With a grant from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the project provided assistance to people with disabilities in Yuexi County in Sichuan.


" We discussed what to do first, we elected our own representatives and then we voted on priorities. In our area, we voted roads first and drinking water next. "

Qiu’e Su

a member of the drinking water management committee of Pannei Village, Longsheng County, Guangxi


Results

Implemented from 2006 to 2010, the project achieved the following main results:

  • The participatory approach was rolled out in a large number of remote villages. Eighty-eight percent of the remote natural villages in Guangxi were involved in project decision making and 399 village implementation groups were set up. Yunnan set up 893 project implementation groups in the project’s poorest natural villages.
  • Poor rural communities participated in decision making at critical stages as well as in the monitoring and final evaluation of project activities. During 2006-2010, the proportion of rural households participating in the selection of poverty reduction activities in project villages rose from 19.5 percent to 46.2 percent and the proportion of project households participating in the determination of poverty reduction activities increased from 18.6 percent to 43.3 percent.
  • Women participated in selecting priority project activities, in the discussion of implementation proposals for community-implemented project activities, and in formulating subsequent management and maintenance systems. The project effectively addressed the participants’ expressed preferences regarding schools, village clinics, and drinking water through the participatory process.
  • A number of innovative practices were developed that are useful for strengthening community engagement and a pro-poor focus in poverty reduction projects, such as participatory poverty analysis, community procurement, and setting up project implementation groups in remote natural villages.
  • The incidence of poverty was significantly reduced from 15.9 percent to 9.3 percent in the project area from 2006 to 2010, registering a total reduction of 6.6 percentage points.
  • The per capita incomes of farmers in the project areas increased by 12 percent per year from 2006 to 2010, as compared to non-project villages (9 percent) and the national average for rural areas (9.2 percent). Consistent with this increase in income, real per capita consumption increased 39.8 percent during the same period.
  • Infrastructure conditions in the project area were considerably improved. By the end of 2010, 98.8 percent of the natural villages had access to electricity, 83.9 percent to road, and 98.2 percent to telephone services. Approximately 202,066 households (802,264 people) benefited from village access roads; and 120,154 households (480,000 people) benefited from improved drinking water.
  • Small irrigation systems secured water supply for agriculture, enabling farmers to increase yields, grow cash crops and generate more income. Improved rural energy supply through biogas and fuel-efficient stoves saved farmers’ time for fuel wood collection and provided cleaner energy, while the supply of electricity provided opportunities for small-scale processing activities.
  • Maternal and child health care services were delivered to 21,150 women and 22,578 children, modern deliveries were provided for 21,085 infants, and medical assistance was provided to 505,485 people.
  • Services to over 3,000 rural people with disabilities in Sichuan’s Yuexi County were provided, enabling them to become involved in socio-economic activities while learning about laws and regulations to become more aware of their rights.

" Really the biggest impact of this project is that we listened to the farmers in the selection of project activities, and adopted a participatory approach from project planning to implementation. "

Canbin Huang

Deputy Director, Provincial Government Poverty Alleviation Office, Guangxi

Bank Group Contribution

The Bank provided an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan of US$99.71 million, combined with its extensive knowledge and experience from its poverty reduction work in China and globally.

Partners

The project was an example of outstanding multi-donor cooperation.  The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) provided generous grant assistance to the overall project, and separate additional DFID grants provided vital assistance for the development of the project’s participatory approach, the monitoring and evaluation system, the Free Education Pilot, and the activity for people with disabilities in Yuexi County in Sichuan. DFID’s grant support for the project totaled about US$37 million.

Moving Forward

The three project provinces have expanded the participatory and other approaches province-wide.  These approaches are also being adopted in poverty reduction projects in other provinces.

The Sustainable Development in Poor Rural Areas Project (2010-2015), which is supported by the Bank and currently being implemented in 25 counties and about 800 villages in Shaanxi and Henan provinces and Chongqing Municipality, is advancing these approaches and community driven development (CDD).  

Beneficiaries

 “We discussed what to do first, we elected our own representatives and then we voted on priorities. In our area, we voted roads first and drinking water next.” -- Ms. Su Qiu’e, a member of the drinking water management committee of Pannei Village, Longsheng County, Guangxi

“Really the biggest impact of this project is that we listened to the farmers in the selection of project activities, and adopted a participatory approach from project planning to implementation.” -- Huang Canbin, Deputy Director, Provincial Government Poverty Alleviation Office, Guangxi


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40,000
Women and children received maternal and child health care services.


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