Rehabilitating China's Loess Plateau

Fifteen years ago China’s Loess Plateau was a barren region plagued by wind and soil erosion, making farming beyond subsistence virtually impossible. Millennia of agricultural exploitation and relentless grazing by domestic livestock had taken their toll, transforming the once lush region into a dustbowl unsuitable for supporting its rural population. Today, thanks to one of the largest land rehabilitation development projects ever conceived, the plateau is a thriving, lush ecosystem providing improved livelihoods for more than 3 million farmers and their families. The Loess Plateau Watershed Rehabilitation Project, implemented by the Government of the People’s Republic of China with the assistance of the World Bank, did more than just transform a region in China—it proved that large-scale ecosystem rehabilitation projects were both possible and replicable, redefining the notion of scaling up in agricultural development and paving the way for similar efforts to take hold in places like Ethiopia and Rwanda.

This brief is one of series on scaling up in agriculture, rural development, and nutrition.

Mackedon, John
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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