The World Bank approved two projects for China totaling US$211.59 million on Tuesday. These projects will benefit some of China’s poorest provinces, and assist the government's efforts to promote growth and development opportunities in these regions.
One of the projects is to improve the quality of education in some of the poorest townships and villages in western China, while the other to fight grassland degradation through implementing better management of valuable grassland areas
Basic Education Project in Western Areas of China
The US$100 million loan will be used to improve access to and completion of affordable and quality basic education for poor boys and girls in some of China's poorest provinces and regions. The World Bank loan is blended with a $34.4 million grant by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) to reduce the effective interest rate on the Bank's 20-year loan. This project builds on and extends the experience of previous bank and DFID-funded basic education projects. Since 1981 the Bank has supported fifteen education projects in China, and this time the project supports the attainment of universal primary education and expansion of lower secondary education in poor and minority areas and will build stronger institutions to increase the quality of education in China.
Although educational progress in China has been impressive, disparities remain in basic education development, with imbalances in the availability of educational services between the economically advanced and underdeveloped regions. Generally, urban and coastal areas have achieved the goal of nine-year basic education, but many poor, sparsely-populated and remote areas have not achieved basic education targets. "A priority for the Government is to close that gap by increasing access to quality basic education for all of China's poorest children and DFID and the World Bank are supportive of this policy", said Eduardo Velez, World Bank Task Manager for the implementation of the project.
The project will be implemented over a five-year period to support the universal completion of nine years of quality compulsory education for children in Sichuan, Gansu, Yunnan Provinces, Ningxia Hui and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regions. The project has three main components: improving schools facilities, strengthening management administration, and implementing strategies to improve the quality of teaching and learning.
By project completion, access to a higher quality basic education for rural children will be increased - with indicators such as literacy and numeracy rates expected to improve. The number of dangerous classroom buildings will be reduced and a stronger community voice in the management of the schools is expected. Finally, principals and teachers will be better equipped to deliver a higher quality education. At end, improved basic education will enable disadvantaged groups in China to take advantage of economic and social opportunities.
The Gansu and Xinjiang Pastoral Development Project
This US$ 111.59 million project, which includes US$ 10.5 million of Global Environment Facility support, will assist the government in mitigating the degradation of natural grasslands which have been harmed by previous mismanagement and inappropriate policies. By fighting grassland degradation the project will improve the capacity of China's pastoral areas to support biodiversity and livestock - and benefit the population living in those areas.
"The Global environment objective of the project is to maintain and nurture natural grassland ecosystems to enhance global environment benefits", said Task Manager Sari Söderström. "More specifically, the project aims to mitigate land degradation, conserve globally important diversity, and enhance carbon sequestration".
Gansu and Xinjiang are a critical environmental areas for China, both listed as priority areas in the Biodiversity review of China, because they contain many grassland endangered species. By promoting better resource management of these areas, the project aims to help China promote more sustainable development.
The project supports resource management through establishing improved livestock production and promoting marketing systems that would increase the income of herders and farmers in the project areas. By empowering farmer and herder households in the project counties to better manage their grassland resources and improve forage and feed production on arable lands, the project will help them increase their incomes through more efficient and quality focused livestock production - which should be sufficient to generate marketable surplus to improve living standards.
The project's components include:
(1) Grassland management and forage improvement to reverse the current trend of grassland degradation, and to contribute to improving counties people's livelihoods, by introducing sustainable grassland-based livestock production systems, biodiversity, and global environmental values;
(2) Livestock production improvement to develop sustainable livestock production systems through improvements in animal genetics and management using environmentally sound technologies;
(3) Market systems development to promote the development of a functioning market system through improved market infrastructure;
(4) Applied research, training, and extension to develop and promote the establishment of integrated management systems that enable household livestock producers to raise the quality of fiber, meat, and milk products derived from grazing livestock, and decrease the number of grazing livestock, resulting in improved grassland condition without economic loss; and
Project management, monitoring, and evaluation to develop and to strengthen the overall project implementation, and to promote effective community participation in project activities.
"Over the long-term, the project should be able to contribute to improved biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, watershed protection, and reduced soil erosion - these global and long-term environment improvements will benefit the farmers and herders alike - and China as a whole", added Sari Söderström.
(China.org.cn September 11, 2003)