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President Nwanze in China - Launch of the SPEAR project

Posted by Thomas Rath Saturday, October 10, 2009

Today 10 October, President Nwanze visited Tianlin village in Miangyang prefecture, Sichuan which takes part in the IFAD- China funded Sichuan Post-Earthquake Agriculture Rehabilitation Project (SPEAR). The villagers warmly welcomed the President and showed him the reconstructed houses . An exhibit was prepared by the Project Management Team showing the state of destruction after the earthquake and the preparation stages of the SPEAR project.

Walking through Tianlin village, the President was impressed by the rapid pace of reconstruction and the positive spirit of the villagers. The people showed him the biogas units and (almost) invited him to prepare lunch on the biogas run kitchen stove......

During the President's talks with the farmers, we discovered that the village has recovered crop production. Many farmers entered in an interesting contract farming arrangement with a restaurant chain in Mianyang city. Farmers temporarily leased their land to the company and in return , they were recruited to produce vegetables . This arrangement secured a steady employment and remuneration for the farmer households affected by the earthquake.

After the field visit, the President opened the SPEAR project together with a large group of high ranking officials from Beijing and Sichuan province, including Mr Wang Zhongjing , Deputy Director General with Ministry of Finance and alternate governor to IFAD, Mr. Li Wei , Vice mayor of Mianyang city, Mr. Wang Yihong, Deputy Director General of Sichuan Department of Finance and representatives of the project beneficiaries.

The President highlighted the important benefits that the SPEAR project promised to deliver. Maintaining these promises will not be an easy task for any stakeholder - the government agencies, IFAD and local technical agencies. But , at the end of it, the satisfaction of the local people and the knowledge that their lives and livelihoods have improved will be reward enough.

The government representatives expressed their appreciation to IFAD for the timely support to the poor rural areas as part of their post-earthquake rehabilitation efforts. They reaffirmed their commitment to timely disbursement of funds to all implementation agencies, efficient coordinations among all the various technical agencies and close monitoring and reporting of the project progress.

The beneficiaries expressed their gratitude and happiness for the rapid and sustained support by the Chinese government and IFAD. However, they also highlighted their eagerness to start the implementation and plead for a rapid commencement of all activities.

Why biogas ? Sichuan farmers explain:

Since the early '70s, biogas continued to demonstrate great benefit to rural households and thus it has been promoted by local governments for example in Mianyang prefecture. In 2008, the biogas units were established in 30% of rural households by the end 2008.

The benefits of biogas digesters are many:
  • it produces an environementally friendly energy for cooking, heating , warm water and light. The biogas digester captures methane that evaporates from animal and household waste . In the kitchenstove, the methane is burned to carbondioxide , which is 23 time less harzodous to the climate than methane ;
  • biogas reduces the requirements for firewood or coal and eases the pressure on collecting fuelwood, especially for women
  • the slurry of the biogas fermentation is an effective fertiliser and helps increasing the crop yields;
  • since animals are kept in a pen , it helps keeping the farmyard and village clean; overall, the hygiene and health status in the village improves sustantially.

The monetary benefits for the households running a biogas units can be assessed as follows: Each digester tanker may generate up to 1000 Yuan (ca. USD 150) to the households; it protects about 0.2 hectare of forest land per year. The current 375,000 digesters in Mianyang prefecture helped to protect some 700,000 hectares of forest land, contributing significantly to improve the environment and rural livelihoods. Biogas has a positive impact on poverty reduction, as it could be demonstrated largely by the IFAD funded West Guangxi Poverty Alleviation Project.

The SPEAR project in Sichuan builds on the experience of the West Guangxi project. It promotes the reconstruction of biogas digesters, toilets , kitchen stoves and pigpens in rural households affected by the terrible May 12, 2008 earthquake.