People’s Republic of China: Comprehensive Agricultural Development Project

Lesson Report:

People’s Republic of China: Comprehensive Agricultural Development Project

Self Evaluation

Well-defined indicators and baseline information and continuous monitoring are vital to reliably assessing the changes that are directly attributable to a project.

The impact and outcome indicators identified in this project’s original design and monitoring framework, i.e., absolute increases in grain output and farm income at the impact level, and yield growth and irrigation water use efficiency at the outcome level, comprised results that were attributable to many factors other than the project.  While the comparison of indicators between the project and non-project areas in the provinces supported the positive impacts of the project, it was not possible to isolate the project’s impact from the other factors without baseline information and a precise definition of control group. In addition to well-defined indicators, future projects should also clearly define the baseline and control groups and monitor and assess impacts through periodic sample surveys to reliably evaluate their performance and contributions to changes across time and at project completion.

Project Cycle Stage

Adopting a consistent model and streamlining procurement and reporting processes facilitates the successful implementation of projects across a large and scattered geographic area.

This project supported the comprehensive agricultural development (CAD) program of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) government to enhance national food security and employed a holistic approach to address common sector issues. It covered six provinces and 68 counties and consolidated county activities into provincial subprojects by applying a single integrated CAD model in all the counties. The project lending modality enabled the consolidation of the large number of activities scattered across six provinces into six provincial subprojects. However, it required the processing of an unusually large number of contracts (657), which was helped by the preparation and use of standardized bidding documents.  Reporting requirements, including on safeguards were streamlined, and an integrated management information system was set up at the State Office for Comprehensive Agricultural Development. Adoption of a uniform integrated model and streamlining of procurement and reporting processes proved instrumental in the project’s success.

Project Cycle Stage

Complementing integrated agricultural development projects with institutional development, technical support, and training, is crucial for sustainability.

The project implemented an integrated model to agricultural productivity growth, combining infrastructure development with the institutional development of farmer organizations and capacity development of farmers. Strengthening of the farmer professional associations and water users’ associations has provided the institutional mechanism for farmers to take over the operation and maintenance responsibility for small project facilities, including applying the cost-recovery scheme with the user-pay principle.  Regular trainings to farmers in integrated pest management, soil testing and balanced fertilization application, water-saving technologies, and marketing, enhanced their productivity skills and capacities, making it more likely for income benefits to be sustained across time.  Along with the participatory approach to infrastructure management, continued income increases will foster the sustainability of the project. 

Project Cycle Stage

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has made impressive achievements in securing a stable food supply for the largest population in the world through substantial investments in agriculture and implementing institutional reforms. Nevertheless, food security remains a concern as the population is expected to reach about 1.46 billion in 2030. Feeding the growing population with a self-sufficiency rate above 95% required increasing grain production by 50 million tons between 2009 and 2020.

In November 2012, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved a $200 million loan for the Comprehensive Agricultural Development Project, which aimed to enhance food security in the PRC by supporting the government’s comprehensive agricultural development (CAD) program. Five provinces (Anhui, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jilin, and Yunnan) and one autonomous region (Ningxia Hui) were selected as the representative national food-surplus and food-balance regions. 

At appraisal, the project’s expected impact was enhanced food security in the PRC. Its intended outcome was increased agricultural productivity in the project area.  It was to deliver the outputs of: (i) improved irrigation and drainage infrastructure; (ii) improved agricultural support; and (iii) improved project management. At completion, the project substantially achieved its output and outcome targets.  

Under output 1, drainage was improved on 92,227 hectares (ha) of land (79% of the target), reducing the risk of waterlogging in the project area. Surface water irrigation was improved or developed on 72,769 ha (173% of the target) and groundwater irrigation on 32,754 ha (80% of the target), providing a reliable water supply for high-yielding grain production. Water-saving technology was introduced in 105,523 ha (142% of the target), improving the efficiency of irrigation water use. The operation and maintenance (O&M) of irrigation and drainage infrastructure was improved by forming or strengthening 33 water users’ associations (WUAs), 51% short of target, largely because some communities already had informal water user groups or formal administrative bodies that had the same capacity to collectively manage irrigation and drainage facilities as WUAs.

Under output 2, the project addressed the structural problem of soil degradation by improving the soil quality of 43,600 ha of land (65% of the target) through land leveling, soil testing, appropriate application of fertilizers, returning crop residue to farmland, and reducing salinity. Despite underachievement of the target, it expanded shelterbelt tree coverage to 3,069 ha and forests to 183 ha, and demonstrated sustainable agricultural production practice, which complementarily addressed the soil degradation problem.  Improvement in 1,966 kilometers of farm access roads (105% of target) and mechanized farming (113% of target) reduced labor inputs and increased market access. The project also established or strengthened 94 farmer professional associations (80% of the target) and sufficiently met the training needs in the project area

Under output 3, training and office equipment provided contributed to the successful and timely implementation of the extensive project. The integrated management information system allowed the national project management office (PMO) to consolidate the project data and monitor the project progress effectively.

Increased agricultural productivity and irrigation water use efficiency in the project area was thus consequently realized.  Between 2010 and 2018, grain yields rose by 53% (target 27%), cash crop yields (excluding vegetables) by 353% (target 27%), and vegetable yields by 35% (target 27%). Improved irrigation and drainage infrastructure, and institutional and human capacity building increased overall irrigation water use efficiency to 55% (target 45%) for surface water irrigation systems and 76% (target 75%) for groundwater irrigation systems. The project’s emphasis on gender equality has further improved its overall performance.

The State Office for Comprehensive Agricultural Development was the project executing agency.  It established a national PMO to coordinate day-to-day implementation, taken charge of by the governments of the participating counties and governments.

Project ID
Report Date
Project Number
Report Type
Project loan
Goal 1: No Poverty
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
Loan Number
Date Approved
20 November 2012
Source of Funding
Report Rating
Report Year
Independent Evaluation, ADB
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