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China’s success in poverty reduction worth bringing to the world’s attention


Alwihda Info | Par peoplesdaily - 31 Juillet 2020

In the future, knowledge sharing on poverty reduction in rural regions, and innovative approaches and practices in partnership with research institutes, private sector, and farmer organizations will be further enhanced through courses and workshops. FAO and our office in China will continue to work with our offices in different regions of the world to organize annual regional dialogues, to promote knowledge sharing on innovative approaches towards poverty reduction and facilitate cooperation on sustainable agriculture.


Benjamin Davis, Leader of the Strategic Programme on Reducing Rural Poverty at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

He Xianchao (second from right), farmer in Weining County, Guizhou Province, took a group photo with other relocated households in their joint vegetable base (photo taken on June 17). Photo by Xinhua News Agency
He Xianchao (second from right), farmer in Weining County, Guizhou Province, took a group photo with other relocated households in their joint vegetable base (photo taken on June 17). Photo by Xinhua News Agency
The massive reduction of poverty in China over the past 30 years is one of the great success stories of modern times in the area of economic and social development. Using the World Bank poverty measure of $1.90 a day, which is comparable across countries, the share of the population in China living in extreme poverty dropped from 66% in 1990 to 0.5% in 2016, the latest year for which comparable figures are available. China’s remarkable achievement has driven, in large part, global success in reducing poverty over the last 30 years.

A number of aspects of China’s success in poverty reduction are worth bringing to the world’s attention. The most noteworthy include: implementing actions that increased the returns to the assets held by the poorest; modernizing agriculture to quickly develop the rural economy; establishing an impressive social security system; and adopting targeted poverty alleviation methods to increase investments in rural areas.

The implementation of actions that increased the returns to the assets owned by the poorest – land and labor, particularly in rural areas – was central. This was achieved by building human capital and investing in people, especially through education, health and sanitation for the poorest, and fostering small holder producer participation in rural markets. The focus on rapidly developing the rural economy by modernizing agriculture was an important ingredient in achieving success. Additionally, China has an impressive social security system for those who are not able to work and offers vocational training and job opportunities for youth. Finally, China’s adoption of targeted poverty alleviation methods focusing on poverty-stricken areas, private sector engagement and partnership in rural areas continuously increase investments through a social responsibility approach, e-commerce and e-market.

One example of the potential of e-commerce can be seen in the development of SDG Villages Project being implemented by FAO, with support from MARA, since July 2019. Funded by Guangfa Securities, and in partnership with E-Commerce Platforms (Alibaba, Pinduoduo, Bytedance) and ongoing Farmer-Field Schools, the project is developing a model of Internet + Agriculture + Rural Finance to alleviate poverty among farmers in the poorest regions.

The slowdown in economic growth in China due to the pandemic, combined with the economic slowdown spreading throughout the global economy, will make it more challenging for China to achieve total poverty elimination this year. Greater efforts will certainly be required. The global crisis poses great challenges and danger, but it also presents an opportunity to improve the way things are done and to strengthen our efforts in the fight to end poverty.

I lead the Strategic Programme on Rural Poverty Reduction at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. It is our task to support member countries to better use rural development, agriculture and food systems in their efforts to reach SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 2 (Zero Hunger). In this capacity I have visited China on a number of occasions in the past few years, to both rural and urban areas, to explore and promote South-South Cooperation for Poverty Reduction with government institutions as well as to learn firsthand about China’s experience.

Over the past few years we have made great progress. Since 2017 our partnership with the World Bank (WB), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Poverty Reduction in China (IPRCC), the China Internet Information Centre (CIIC) and the two other Rome-based agencies, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Programme (WFP), promoted experience sharing, international cooperation and the role of partnerships on poverty reduction.

A platform of collaboration was created with IPRCC, CIIC, FAO, IFAD and WFP since 2017, with two events organized annually – the International Seminar on Global Poverty Reduction Partnerships in Rome, and the China Poverty Reduction International Forum in Beijing. Moreover, last November, a China Poverty Reduction International Forum was held in Kampala, Uganda, dedicated to the theme on Global Partnership for Poverty Reduction in Africa. These dialogues will continue in 2020, on a virtual basis, to share knowledge about continued eradication of extreme poverty in China and learn from the experiences and challenges faced in other countries. Through this partnership and platform, a list of 110 best poverty reduction case studies was mapped and selected in 2019 from the first Global Solicitation and Challenge Prize on Best Poverty Reduction Practices co-launched by all these organizations in May 2018. The second Global Solicitation and Challenge Prize is ongoing and will announce the best cases in 2020.

The last time I was in China, in 2019, I had the opportunity to strengthen our partnership with MARA and the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and the Nationally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (NIAHS) initiatives, which promote landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and a valuable cultural heritage. Located in specific sites around the world and in China, they sustainably provide multiple goods and services, and food and livelihood security for millions of small-scale farmers. China has 15 of the world’s current 59 GIAHS sites, which are powerful examples of sustainable development with great potential for poverty reduction in rural areas.

China has provided financial and technical assistance, as well as knowledge and experience sharing, on poverty reduction in partnership with FAO to other developing countries for over twelve years. China has provided over $80 million to the South-South Cooperation Programme with FAO in support of agriculture. China was the first country to establish a South-South Cooperation Programme strategic alliance with FAO through a Letter of Intent in 2006.

A good recent example around South-South Cooperation in poverty reduction is a 10-day training co-organized by FAO and the IPRCC in November 2018. Government officials from 14 African countries visited and learned about poverty-reduction experiences in three Chinese cities. The training included a forum where African countries interacted with the IPRCC and discussed potential ways to overcome African challenges when trying to adapt similar measures, as well as to present some successful experiences from their countries.

The slowdown in economic growth in China due to the pandemic, combined with the economic slowdown spreading throughout the global economy, will make it more challenging for China to achieve total poverty elimination this year. Greater efforts will certainly be required. The global crisis poses great challenges and danger, but it also presents an opportunity to improve the way things are done and to strengthen our efforts in the fight to end poverty.

In the future, knowledge sharing on poverty reduction in rural regions, and innovative approaches and practices in partnership with research institutes, private sector, and farmer organizations will be further enhanced through courses and workshops. FAO and our office in China will continue to work with our offices in different regions of the world to organize annual regional dialogues, to promote knowledge sharing on innovative approaches towards poverty reduction and facilitate cooperation on sustainable agriculture.