Soil and water conservation investments and rural development in China
This study uses a unique set of annual provincial data on soil and water conservation (SWC) investments during the period 1989-2005 to estimate the impact of such investments on the extent and severity of erosion, the growth rate of agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) and rural poverty reduction in China. We find that SWC investments made by local governments have a significant negative impact on the extent of erosion and (in recent years) the severity of erosion, whereas SWC investments made by farm households until recently had a significant negative effect on the severity of erosion. In its turn, the severity of erosion is found to have a significant negative impact on agricultural GDP. Estimation of the impact of the extent of erosion on agricultural GDP provides mixed results. Based on these results, we derive that one RMB invested in SWC by local governments increases agricultural GDP in 2002 with 0.84-1.25Â RMB. Finally, we find that agricultural GDP has a significant negative impact on the rural poverty rate. The resulting indirect effect of SWC investment on rural poverty reduction, however, is small compared to other types of public investment. We conclude that (local) government investments in SWC do not only serve environmental goals, but also make a non-negligible contribution to agricultural growth and rural poverty reduction.
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