Efficient Utilization of Agricultural Wastes Project
sector: Energy | country: China, People’s Republic of
Simplify grant disbursement arrangements. The flow of Global Environment Facility (GEF) funds was slow and tedious and delayed implementation. This was due partly to the lack of an imprest account in the provinces. These disbursements arrangements need to be simple. The government has drawn lessons from the project and has now agreed to the establishment of imprest accounts in provincial departments of finance to receive grant funds directly from ADB. Such an arrangement is expected to accelerate the disbursement of the GEF grants in future GEF- cofinanced projects and ensure the effectiveness of the fund uses.
Government ownership key. The project objectives were in line with the government’s national policy on environmental improvement, renewable energy development, and poverty reduction in rural areas. The project activities were also well integrated with the existing institutional system, which involved rural energy offices and extension service stations in the counties and villages. The government demonstrated a strong ownership of and commitment to the project by increasing its counterpart contribution to the construction of infrastructure in the project area and the issuance of relevant laws and policies during project implementation, which made the project successful and sustainable.
Training crucial to sustainability. A well-designed, well-executed capacity development program assures that a project will be sustainable and can be replicated. The sound planning of this project’s training programs was one of the keys to its success. The training combined courses on biogas systems and agricultural production, giving farmers an opportunity to use new technology, knowledge, and ideas to improve their incomes and living standards. It was also broad and flexible, allowing the family members who are often the final users of the biogas to take part. This ensured that the type I and II systems would remain operational. The project also trained technicians in service centers and stations in the counties and villages, helped establish service networks in the project areas, and ensured the availability of maintenance services in rural areas.
Providing training in the year after construction of the biogas digesters was also effective since this was when project farmers needed to learn about operation and maintenance (O&M) for their new equipment and how to make use of the slurry and sludge from the digesters in agricultural production. The project also established an institutional mechanism linking contractors with extension service stations and the farmers, which is critical in promoting further development of rural household biodigesters. The training program has created ripple effects in the participating provinces. The implementing agencies have started replicating the project’s biodigester-cum-livelihood design and training in other areas, using the training materials and extension services established by the project.
Climate and location important. Local weather conditions can affect the success of technology, as they did in the case of the type I system. The sustainability of type I systems, which include a greenhouse, could be marginal in Shanxi Province where the annual average temperature is low and they can only function properly for about half the year. The province’s harsh weather also means that the greenhouses deteriorate faster and need more intensive maintenance. Understanding the geography of farmers’ lives is also important in designing projects such as this. The systems were constructed on the farms and were usually far from farmers’ houses. This limits the benefits of using the biogas to cooking one or two meals a day when farmers are at work in their fields.
Due diligence critical before using new technology. The technical and economic viability of a new technology, such as the straw gasification technology in the project, must be examined carefully before its inclusion in a project. This is particularly important to poverty- focused projects as poor stakeholders would have less capacity in managing risks of project failure. The cancellation of type IV gasification plants at midterm review mission over the concerns about their technology immaturity and economic viability avoided project failure and was a sound decision. However, it also showed a lack of proper due diligence regarding these factors at the appraisal. The supplementary appendix A of the report and recommendation of the President (RRP) indicated that the technology was only beginning to be tried. The fixed bed gasifier had been installed only by one company and had not been widely adopted. The other equipment type, a fluidized bed gasifier, had not received certification from Chinese authorities at the time of the project appraisal. The project design was unclear about the type IV systems’ implementation arrangements and investors. This was especially risky because the majority of the project beneficiaries were to be farmers with limited skills, and the beneficiaries and implementing officers would both need capacity development in basic biodigester construction and O&M. The type IV system technology would have been too complicated for farmers to operate and maintain. It might well have failed if the 28 units had been set up as planned.
Enterprise ownership lacking. The lack of ownership and commitment on the part of the project enterprises to the preparation of the project design document (PDD) might cause the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) pilot bundling project to fail. In the case of the pilot CDM project in Henan Province, the provincial government may need to change its role from direct involvement in the CDM project development to technical support. The government should also seek direct involvement by the enterprises to enhance their ownership and understanding of the CDM process. The enterprises considered carbon financing as an easily accessible fund and were not aware of the commitment and efforts that would be required from them to avail of the carbon credit. The absence of direct involvement in preparing the CDM pilot project and lack of full understanding of the process may lead to the failure of the pilot bundling project.