China has made significant strides in poverty reduction in the previous three decades due to a combination of economic reforms and national poverty reduction programs. Experiencing a significant growth in the nation’s GDP that resulted in the rise from a low-income country to an upper-middle-income country, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line has decreased from 88% in 1981 to 1.7% in 2018. However, in 2016, 43% of the rural population lived below the national poverty line, many of them smallholder farmers. Recognizing the importance of agricultural development opportunities among rural populations, the Chinese government approved IPRAD-SN, (Innovative Poverty Reduction Programme: Specialised Agribusiness Development) in Sichuan and Ningxia in 2018, as part of its initiative to eliminate rural poverty. The action plan delineates development strategies for increasing agricultural capacity, thus reducing rural poverty in China.
Constraints for Rural Chinese Farmers
Living in the Sichuan or Ningxia province provides pristine mountain views and unparalleled landscapes but it also presents constraints. Approximately 6.5 million individuals in Sichuan and 840,000 in Ningxia live below the national poverty line. Infrastructure problems concerning irrigation, drainage, cattle sheds and roads, inhibit farmers from increasing their production capacity and quality. For instance, in the Ningxia village of Naihe, livestock buildings or cattle sheds offer limited space for farmers to raise their animals. This prohibits any increase in livestock quantity, which in turn constrains profit growth and renders farmers unable to generate sufficient funds to build improved infrastructure. Lack of access to market, value chain and financial resources also threaten ambitions for economic expansion in these rural, remote regions. Each of these variables contributes to the difficulties in reducing rural poverty in China.
Innovative Poverty Reduction Programme: (IPRAD-SN)
China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs joined with the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development in order to formulate the six-year IPRAD-SN program that strives to directly improve the lives of 198,847 individuals in Sichuan and Ningxia. The program prioritizes local empowerment with the following two focuses that assist in reducing rural poverty in China: infrastructure and sustainability and value chain inclusion.
- Infrastructure and Sustainability: Adequate supply systems are an essential component of spurring economic growth in these communities. Providing electricity, potable water, irrigation for crops and durable roads are important aspects of the plan’s infrastructure component. In addition, the program incorporates land restoration and climate-conscious agricultural techniques in order to ensure sustainability.
- Value Chain Inclusion: By increasing market capacity, asset availability and access to financial services, the plan strives to incorporate smallholder farmers, cooperatives and agro-enterprises into “pro-poor” value chains. Strategies include enhancing the technological and organizational skills of cooperatives, funding business plans that target poverty reduction and helping local financial institutions cater their services to the needs of the community.
IPRAD-SN aspires to lift 50% of the provinces’ impoverished out of poverty upon its completion. In order to ascertain progress, the plan delineates key factors to account for during monitoring intervals. These factors include gross per capita income levels, beneficiary totals, women-led cooperatives, breadth and quality of road networks, production levels, sustainable farming practitioners and individuals with access to post-production amenities.
In the Ningxia province, the implementation of this plan has already modernized irrigation systems and improved water access for livestock. Additionally, silos have been constructed in order to ensure weather-resistant protection for crops and animal feed and livestock provisions such as cattle sheds have been refurbished. In improving the care of livestock, farmers are better equipped to breed and sell their animals. Each of these developments places farmers in a position to improve agricultural quality and quantity and thus increase profit generation.
Agriculture is a vital component of China’s economy, accounting for 9% of the nation’s GDP and 33% of employment. Providing tools at the local level enables farmers to cater the plan’s strategies to their needs and create effective projects. By investing in these individuals, IPRAD-SN is making advancements in reducing rural poverty in China.
– Suzi Quigg