eradicating rural povertyThe Huanjiang Maonan Autonomous County lies in Guanxi in southern China. A majority of China’s Maonan ethnic group live here in rural villages. Once considered one of China’s most impoverished places, the poverty rate has now dropped to under 2% thanks to efforts by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). By using advanced farming techniques and relocating people to more arable areas, CAS has provided a model for eradicating rural poverty in China.

CAS Goals

Just over 100,000 Maonan live in China, most in small rural villages. About 70,000 of them live in Huanjiang. In the 1990s, Maonan farmers grew mostly corn and sweet potatoes, barely scraping by. The Chinese government identified Huanjiang as one of the most impoverished counties in China.

Maonan villages were located in mountainous, rocky regions known as karst landscapes. These areas are prone to desertification and are unsuitable for farming. CAS started the Kenfu Huanjiang Ecological Migration Pilot Zone in 1996. Its two goals were to relocate people to new villages in areas more suitable for agriculture and to improve the livelihoods of those that refused to relocate.

New Farming Techniques and Solutions

CAS introduced advanced farming techniques that better suit the area. An important change was the shift from farming to livestock. Huanjiang is highly flood-prone so CAS helped plant various grasses that can support animals. Zeng Fuping, a researcher with CAS who has been in Huanjiang since 1994, remarked that “the farmers were unsure initially and they questioned growing something that they could not eat.” However, the results speak for themselves. Income has increased tenfold since the introduction of 200 cattle into the region in 2001. Not only do the grasses support livestock but they also help prevent soil erosion. They have helped prevent widespread desertification, which is a common problem in karst landscapes. This serves as a model for maintaining arable land in karst areas across China.

Eradicating Rural Poverty

The speed of poverty reduction in Huanjiang has been staggering. In 1996, the average resident only earned the equivalent of $45 per year. That number rose to $835 in 2012 and $1600 in 2019.

In 2015, more than 14,000 Maonan people in Huanjiang lived below the Chinese poverty line of $345 per year. This accounted for around 22% of all Maonan peoples living in the county. By 2019, less than 1.5% of Maonan lived in poverty, amounting to 548 people. Due to the efforts of CAS, Huanjiang is no longer an area of extreme poverty in China.

In all of Guanxi, CAS has helped facilitate 400,000 people with relocation to new villages. This includes a majority of the Maonan community. Poverty percentages in Huanjiang have dropped to single digits. Livestock farming has reduced soil erosion and given locals much more disposable income. UNESCO dubbed this strategy the “Kenfu Model” and it is an important example of eradicating rural poverty in China.

– Adam Jancsek
Photo: Flickr


Sustainable agriculture attempts to meet society’s current food and textile needs without affecting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Agriculture is a major component in Algeria’s rural development and represents 14 percent of the labor force.

Algeria has approximately 8.4 million hectares (ha) of arable land, which is 3.5 percent of the country’s entire surface area. However, only 12 percent of Algeria’s arable land is irrigated because most of the sustainable agriculture in Algeria is rain-fed, and consequently suffers from frequent droughts. Just over half of the country’s total arable land is dedicated to field crops such as cereals and pulses, with six percent of land to arboriculture and three percent to industrial crops.

Algeria’s agricultural productivity has improved in recent years due to the Agriculture Development Plan implemented in 2000 by the Ministry of Agriculture. The plan focuses on boosting agriculture development and production.

In 2008, the agriculture development strategy was re-oriented to portray new policy priorities: enhanced agricultural production, revitalization of natural resources, appropriate consumption of water resources and food safety initiatives. Algeria’s government intends to orient agriculture toward models in the grain sector and establish modern complexes to facilitate the use of public agricultural land. This would increase Algeria’s arable land to nine million ha by 2020.

Despite the Agricultural Development Plan, Algeria remains one of the world’s largest importers of wheat, amounting to $2.39 billion. Algeria’s exports to the United States total less than $1 million.

Several factors impede Algeria’s development:

  • Land ownership and marketing channel constraints
  • Investment deficiency
  • Insufficient input access
  • Lack of water availability
  • Low levels of agriculture training and education
  • Slow grant agreement process

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and Algeria have formed a cooperation with three main objectives. These goals include working for sustainable improvements in economic, social and technical performance for agriculture production and food security, bettering natural resource management and building capacity and institutional development to secure effective policies for food security and resource management

To ensure sustainable agriculture in Algeria, priority should be given to improving the regulatory framework of resources and incentive system, further cooperation and policy development, implementing an effective finance system and encouraging a transparent and secure land market. Sustainable agriculture in Algeria is possible if development approaches are adaptable, long-term and rational.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Land DepletionA recent study found that land depletion has caused 33 percent of the Earth’s arable land to be reduced by erosion or pollution in the past 40 years. With the population increasing comes a demand for food and shelter, but with the loss of land, these needs must be viewed in a new light and addressed with new strategies.

The Guardian cited the rate of erosion as occurring “at a pace of up to 100 times greater than the rate of soil formation.” Using land for agriculture continuously, over-fertilizing the land, industrialization and deforestation are the main factors contributing to land depletion. Land depletion continues at a rate of 10 million hectares per year. At the rate of present usage, the land is unable to restore itself and maintain soil health. The study, completed by the University of Sheffeld’s Grantham Center for Sustainable Futures, called the loss “catastrophic.”

This issue of land depletion has implications for a variety of issues, including food production, energy usage, animal and land conservation and ocean health. This research was discussed at the climate talks in Paris.

In the study, the authors suggested several different solutions to radically overhaul global agriculture and attempt to prevent significant land depletion in the future. These solutions primarily included a reduction and/or increased regulation of land used for meat production. Presently, 30 percent of our current arable land is used for pasture for animals. By using this land in a way that promotes soil restoration, rates of soil depletion could be decreased.

The study’s authors also recommend increased crop rotation, use of biotechnology and increased recycling of bio-nutrients for soil restoration. Much of this will have to be implemented by policy-makers and national bodies. However, for the average consumer, the best action will be a practice of mindfulness. By being more aware of what we purchase, how it is produced and how to best dispose of it, we can make choices that support sustainable practices.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: The Guardian, University of Michigan
Photo: Flickr