World Bank investing US$80M to help improve water management, increase agriculture water productivity for 1.3 million farmers in China

WASHINGTON , May 14, 2012 (press release) – Today the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a loan of US$80 million to the People’s Republic of China to help improve agriculture water management and to increase agriculture water productivity and incomes for 1.3 million farmers in Ningxia, Hebei and Shanxi provinces.

Irrigated agriculture plays an irreplaceable role in improving the wellbeing of the rural population and national food security. It produces 75 percent of the total agriculture outputs, and employs hundreds of millions of people in China. However, it is also the largest water user sector withdrawing 68 percent of the country’s total water use.

Water Conservation Project II seeks to improve agriculture water management and to increase agriculture water productivity through innovative measures of water savings and climate change adaptation, agricultural diversification and institutional development for agriculture water management.

The project will finance the construction of water works and water saving facilities such as canals, pump stations and on-farm works. Support will be provided to reduce non-beneficial evapo-transpiration (ET), increase the resilience of farm community to climate change, and increase farm yield and output value through activities related to land leveling, crop residue utilization, plastic membrane covering for soil moisture preservation, balanced fertilizer applications, new seeds verity application, farmland deep-ploughing, integrated pest management demonstration, and green houses for growing high-value vegetables and fruits.

In addition, programs will be carried out to improve agricultural water management capacity of irrigation management staff and user communities, including participatory irrigation management, training of farmers in irrigation management and agricultural technologies, development of water resources management plans in selected counties, innovative water resources management pilot schemes, and applied research on salinity control in high groundwater table areas of Ningxia and ET-based water resources management planning in water scarce areas of Shanxi.

The project will establish or improve about 259 water user associations, through which farmers will participate directly in the selection of irrigation schemes for rehabilitation, implementation of on-farm works, as well as training for irrigation management and agricultural technologies. Water users associations will take over the responsibility of managing completed irrigation systems below the secondary canals. Their members, particularly those in the pilot counties, will also take part in groundwater monitoring and management.

“Building on the successful experiences of Phase I project, the project seeks to provide sustainable multiple-win solution to the interlinked issues of water scarcity, low agricultural water productivity and farm income, and ecological degradation from over-withdrawal of surface and groundwater in the irrigated areas”, said World Bank’s Senior Water Resources Management Specialist Li Xiaokai who manages the project.

The project is expected to directly benefit about 1.3 million farmers in 24 counties in the three provinces. About 25 percent of the beneficiaries are poor farmers and about 50 percent are women. Water savings and improved agriculture water management will also benefit the general population and township industries in the project areas.

The World Bank loan will finance slightly over half of the total project cost estimated at US$159.45 million, with the rest to be covered by counterpart funds from governments at national, provincial and county levels, as well as contributions from project beneficiary communities.

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