China and GEF Partnership on Land Degradation in Dryland Ecosystems


Much of the land area in China lies in arid or semi-arid zones.

Dryland areas of the western PRC cover roughly 40 percent of the country’s total land area, and are highly vulnerable to drought and desertification. The area of degraded lands is expanding at an annual rate of about 3,500 km2 due to a combination of unsustainable agricultural practices, deforestation, and mismanagement of water resources.

About 27 percent of the country (more than 260 million hectares) is now affected by land degradation, creating livelihood risks and vulnerability for several hundred million people.

The GEF helped the government of China to address these problems through the “PRC–GEF Partnership on Land Degradation in Dryland Ecosystems” (Total Financing: US$401.91 million; GEF Grant: US$22.9 million; GEF Agencies: IFAD, The World Bank, and ADB). The partnership brought together national and international organizations to support integrated ecosystem management approaches in combating land degradation, reducing poverty, and restoring Dryland ecosystems in China’s western region.

The program, implemented by the central government, took place in six provinces (regions): Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, and Xinjiang. This program supported a long-term approach that was necessary to effectively address land degradation and its associated global environmental concerns, such as loss of biodiversity, climate change, and desertification.

The  partnership strengthened the enabling environment and promoted an integrated approach to reduce land degradation, alleviate poverty, and conserve biodiversity, while also restoring, sustaining, and enhancing the protective and productive functions and services of dryland ecosystem resources in western PRC.

The program finalized in 2012 supported a sequenced set of priority activities to strengthen the enabling environment and build institutional capacity for IEM approaches to combating land degradation. It also demonstrated viable IEM models for widespread dissemination and replication.