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People's Republicof China Water Action: A Promising Path Toward Poverty-Free Countryside

People's Republicof China Water Action: A Promising Path Toward Poverty-Free Countryside

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Oct 18, 2012
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Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsPeople's Republic of China: A promising path toward poverty-free countryside
July 2005
The People's Republic of China(PRC) has made remarkableprogress in reducing rural poverty.From 1978 to 2000, more than 200million rural poor were lifted out of poverty. Plus, the incidence of rural poverty dropped dramaticallyfrom 30.7% to 3.4%.Broad-based economic reformsmade this possible, shifting thecountry from being centrallyplanned to a more market-orientedeconomy. GDP quadrupled after1978. Reforms in the boomingagricultural sector became the cornerstone of reformsthroughout the economy.On the ground where policies are implemented, PRC'ssmall- and large-scale farmers have almost equal access towater. Indeed, water is sometimes allocated to favor thepoor. A combination of other factors have also led to anincrease in off-farm employment.What role did irrigation play in PRC's agriculture boom?
A newly released study, "Pro-poor Intervention Strategies inIrrigated Agriculture in Asia," illustrates the povertytransforming power of PRC's pro-poor agriculturalstrategies. The heart of PRC's strategy is putting the poorfirst, without disadvantaging the rest.The study, funded by the Asian Development Bank, used aholistic approach to understand rural poverty and identifypractical, pro-poor interventions. The International WaterManagement Institute (IWMI) carried out in-depth,multidisciplinary studies in five other Asian countries.IWMI and the Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy inBeijing collaborated for the research project to criticallyassess irrigation system performance, poverty, and relevantinstitutions.In-depth studies were made of four large-scale irrigationsystems in two provinces, including interviews with 231households in 2001-2002. This, coupled with a nationalsurvey of 1,199 households in six provinces, helped pinpointpolicy actions that could make the country's irrigationsystems more efficient and more pro-poor. 
Poverty rates in the irrigation districts (IDs) studied weredouble the 3.4% national average. But importantly, farmerpoverty within each ID was not related to the location orsize because land was equitably distributed. Lower incomeswere associated with larger families and lower educationlevels.Any policy changes that boost agricultural incomes-byincreasing the area irrigated or improving irrigationefficiency-will increase poor farmers' incomes relativelymore than those of rich farmers. Poorer households relymuch more on agriculture than wealthier ones.The poorest groups earn 87% of their income from cropsand livestock; the richest groups earned only 46%. Evengreater, poor men and women gain 86-173% higher netincomes from irrigated crops than from rain-fed crops.In general, the smallest and the largest farms had equalaccess to water. Plus, in all four systems studied, thepoorest farmers had the greatest access to water in terms of per capita and per household use. Seventy-five percent of farmers said their water supply was reliable. Plus, wherefarmers had no problem accessing water when they neededit, they obtained higher crop yields.
Compared with other countries inAsia, a high proportion (52%) of PRC's cultivated land is irrigated.Most low-value staple crops are notirrigated.The pro-poor aspects of irrigationin PRC, according to the survey,areFor almost all crops, irrigatedplots yield more than rain-fed ones.Access to irrigation alsoincreases the annual output of land, as farmers cangrow two crops per year.Irrigation allows the rural poor to grow more high-value crops, yielding much higher revenues than non-irrigated plots-79% higher overall. 

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