Ending Poverty in China: How NGOs can play a role

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This blog is part of a series produced to commemorate End Poverty Day (October 17), focusing on China – which has contributed more than any other country to global poverty reduction – and its efforts to end extreme poverty by 2020.  Read the blog series  here. 
China has 128,000 poor villages with 55.75 million registered poor people. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to lift them out of poverty. Typically, people fall into four categories of poverty, requiring different approaches. Unlike some development players, NGOs are more agile and are innovative in solutions, allowing them to provide support sooner.

The first category comprises those who are temporarily incapable of work due to illness or having school-aged children to support. For these people, rehabilitation or bringing back their capability to work to will help reduce their vulnerabilities.

The second category consists of those who have some resources but lack business skills or efficiency. Working with them to develop new business models and use resources more efficiently will help them get out of poverty.

The third category is made up of those who are capable of work but external conditions or resources like jobs are poor. Relocation or employment skills training may be effective solutions.

The fourth category comprises those who are permanently incapacitated, such as the severely disabled. They should be supported by the social protection system.   
For the third and fourth categories, the government plays the lead role, while NGOs can only fill in the gaps. But for the first and second categories, NGOs, particularly poverty-focused NGOs, can do a lot. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation has many successful cases and a wealth of experience. 

Our “New Great Wall” Program, for example, has provided financial assistance to high school students from registered poor families in the past 10 years. By September 2016, 52,786 students benefited from the program, and so did their families who struggled with education-related costs.
students aided by “New Great Wall” Program
Another example is our “breadwinner” medical aid program launched in June 2016. The program is promoted extensively online and raises money and mobilizes resources in the counties and cities where beneficiaries live. This helps us provide medical aid to poor families to prevent them from falling to poverty as a result of the medical costs of seriously ill family members.   

“Philanthropic Commune” (shanpin Gongshe) and “Beautiful Countryside” are two other examples of business model innovation and efficiency improvement.

The advance of internet technology has opened up many more possibilities in reducing poverty. The biggest challenge for farmers in poor areas is lack of market access for their products because of their remoteness, transport costs and lack of marketing expertise. CFPA has successfully piloted e-commerce projects to address this challenge.

In March 2016, we were able to help orange farmers in Ya’an, Sichuan to sell 50,000 kilograms of oranges in three hours through e-commerce. Ya’an orange became the first product of our “Philanthropic Commune” E-commerce Program, followed by Hanyuan cherries, Mt. Mengding kiwi fruits and many other farm products. This program has generated considerable income for many poor farmers and also demonstrated the potential of business model innovation.
“Philanthropic Commune” E-commerce Program in Sichuan
Our “Beautiful Countryside” Program started during post-earthquake reconstruction in Ya’an. As opposed to simply rebuilding damaged houses and roads, we made an additional investment to develop tourist facilities. We helped set up a village tourism cooperative among villagers, and rebuilt villagers’ houses into quality homestays. Villagers benefited from tourist incomes just within three years. We are now scaling up the approach in Sichuan, Guizhou and Hebei provinces.      
villagers’ houses rebuilt under the “Beautiful Countryside” Program
Our experience shows that NGOs can play a huge role in poverty reduction. First, NGOs can complement government in mobilizing additional resources for the benefit of a greater number of people in need and improving program results through our involvement in project management, monitoring and evaluation.

Second, NGOs can bring in more innovative solutions, such as multi-party co-financing, participatory decision-making and beneficiary capacity building.

Third, NGOs’ participation in global poverty reduction can facilitate cooperation to share these experiences and tackle global poverty.      


Wenkui Liu

Executive Director, China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

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