This case study describes the use of diverse water harvesting and water saving technologies to mitigate the effects of recurrent drought, extreme weather and general decline in moisture availability in the arid and semi-arid Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China. The technologies introduced include the use of 'protected' agriculture (e.g. greenhouse farming), and the use of plastic and stone-gravel mulching of farmlands. While the sand/gravel mulching has been a traditional practice of local farmers throughout history, the plastic mulch and the greenhouse farming are newly applied in the region. These technologies have been introduced mainly through government subsidies and other forms of support programs. Coupled with government’s diverse environmental policies for the region such as the National Forest Conservation Program (NFCP), the Grain for Green Program (GGP), land transfer policy, and the inter-basin water transfer programs, these have resulted in an increase in the overall income of local farmers, thereby leading to their widespread adoption since 1990s.
- Through the increased productivity of farms, farmers have increased their income.
- The agricultural patterns have become better adapted to extreme weather variability and droughts.
- The implementation of greenhouse farming helped in sparing of large tract of formerly cultivated, degraded land, thereby providing improved opportunities for the National Forest Conservation Program.
- Greenhouses enable longer growing season for valuable vegetable crops, helping farmers to market high value cash crops.
- An integrated result of the above has led to an overall rehabilitation of degraded land.
- Successful implementation of adaptation technologies requires strong government policy support, including subsidies to create an enabling environment, until communities start to adopt them voluntarily.
- Protected agriculture (e.g. greenhouse farming) has improved productivity, thereby resulting in improved income.
- Protected agriculture assures higher productivity within limited area of land, sparing more degraded land for environmental rehabilitation programs.
- The implementation of water-saving technologies such as plastic and sand-gravel mulching have resulted in improved water use efficiency ultimately increasing farmers’ income.
- Sustainable adaptation and adoption of these technologies, however, require continued knowledge sharing, training and financial assurance for farmers.