Rainwater Cellars introduced through government support [China]

approaches_2432 - China

Completeness: 72%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Approach

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
SLM specialist:

Wang Yaolin

GEF/OP12 Project Implementation Office of Gansu (Gamsu Sand Control Research Institute)

Chen Zhengbin, Forestry Bureau of Anding District, Dingxi City, Gansu Province


Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Approach (if relevant)
CDE Centre for Development and Environment (CDE Centre for Development and Environment) - Switzerland
Name of the institution(s) which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Approach (if relevant)
GEF/OP12 Gansu Project (GEF/OP12 Gansu Project) - China

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.4 Reference(s) to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Technologies

Rainwater Cellars

Rainwater Cellars [China]

The use of courtyard, roof, road surface, slope, etc. as catchments to collect rainwater for underground water storage for future supply of cropland irrigation as well as drinking water for humans and livestock.

  • Compiler: Anna Schuler

2. Description of the SLM Approach

2.1 Short description of the Approach

Government takes the lead and propelled by project, the rainwater collection for irrigation technology scales up by demonstration.

2.2 Detailed description of the Approach

Detailed description of the Approach:

Dingxi County of Gansu Province is short of water resource. There is an old saying it's hard to exchange a cup of water for a cup of oil in Anding of Dingxi. During drought years, drinking water became a crisis and people had to walk dozens of miles to get water. With no self-relief capacity the local people live a hard life. To resolve water shortage, the most realistic method is to tap into the potential of local precipitation. Under the support of the Gansu provincial government, researches on rainwater collection were conducted during the period from 1988 to 1992 and water cellar technology was proven technically and economically feasible with its functions in preventing erosion, developing arid cropland and ecosystem recovery.
In 1994, the government disseminated water cellar technology in the northwestern part of the county covering 14 townships and 4376 households. After completion, the drinking water supply problem was mitigated for 22,000 people and 8700 animals. In 1995, a severe drought hit Gansu and the provincial government immediately initiated “1-2-1 Rainwater Collection Project, under which the government supplied cement and the local people provided sand/stone and labor to build water cellars. According to this project each household should build one water catchment with an area of100m2 made by concrete cement and two water cellars and one backyard cashcrop forest. By the end of 2000, a total of 57800 households were involved in the project to provide drinking water to 60,900 people and 333,900 heads of livestock. In addition, dryland farming has seen great development. Since 1996, water cellar technology has been diversified and evolved. The water collection fields have extended from roof and courtyard to road surface, ditch, hillside, land brink, etc and the application has been widened to scale livestock farming, spot watering and conservation irrigation of farmland based on the achievement of the 1-2-1 rainwater collection project. Moreover, water cellar technology has been gradually combined with greenhouse production, tourism agriculture, etc to form a development model integrating rainwater conservation irrigation, dryland farming and improved livelihood standards.

2.3 Photos of the Approach

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Approach has been applied



Region/ State/ Province:


Further specification of location:


2.8 Main aims/ objectives of the Approach

Aims are to: establish a extension mechanism that promotes sustainable development and involves farmers participation; improve the farmers' knowledge about rainwater utilization; strengthen farmer participation and their confidence in overcoming difficulties; solve drinking water problem; eliminate poverty
The SLM Approach addressed the following problems: lack of effective grass-roots organization; backward economy and lack funds; farmers in lack of the knowledge of water cellar establishment and management; short of drinking water for human and domestic animals

2.9 Conditions enabling or hindering implementation of the Technology/ Technologies applied under the Approach

availability/ access to financial resources and services
  • hindering

Found shortage: Farmers cannot afford water cellar construction
Treatment through the SLM Approach: The dissemination approaches include trial operation, demonstration, training, household visit for publicity, media (TV), technical handouts and posters. The key organizer of the extension is the water resources bureau of Anding District.

  • hindering

Knowledge/technology shortage: Short of knowledge of rainwater high efficiency utilization and related agricultureal technology
Treatment through the SLM Approach: Demonstration and training

3. Participation and roles of stakeholders involved

3.1 Stakeholders involved in the Approach and their roles

  • local land users/ local communities
  • SLM specialists/ agricultural advisers

SWC experts

  • national government (planners, decision-makers)
3.2 Involvement of local land users/ local communities in the different phases of the Approach
Involvement of local land users/ local communities Specify who was involved and describe activities
initiation/ motivation external support Meetings, household visits
planning external support Participate in the survey and site location arrangement
implementation external support Labor input for technological implementation
monitoring/ evaluation external support Observation, collaboration with the survey of the technicians
Research external support Participate in the surveys

3.4 Decision-making on the selection of SLM Technology/ Technologies

Were decisions on the selection of the Technology(ies) made:
  • Land users and decision makers

Decisions on the method of implementing the SLM Technology were made by land users alone (self-initiative / bottom-up). Land users or village leaders decided to build water cellars.

4. Technical support, capacity building, and knowledge management

4.1 Capacity building/ training

Was training provided to land users/ other stakeholders?


Specify who was trained:
  • land users
Form of training:
  • demonstration areas
  • public meetings
  • courses
Form of training:
  • publicity brochures
Subjects covered:

water cellar building and management, irrigation etc.

4.3 Institution strengthening (organizational development)

Have institutions been established or strengthened through the Approach?
  • yes, moderately
Specify the level(s) at which institutions have been strengthened or established:
  • local
  • capacity building
Give further details:

the technology application strengthened the capacity building of the local water resources departments. Application of the technology helped other projects related to water conservancy and poverty reduction.

4.4 Monitoring and evaluation


There were None changes in the Technology as a result of monitoring and evaluation: The technology itself has not evolved from sole water cellar development to an assembled technology with others. The financial resources o support water cellars have been changed from sole government to social funds, moreover, the farmers would actively asks for building water cellars.

4.5 Research

Was research part of the Approach?


Specify topics:
  • sociology
  • economics / marketing
  • ecology
Give further details and indicate who did the research:

The research is conducted by provincial level researchers on the ecological, economic, social benefits of the water cellars, mainly.

5. Financing and external material support

5.1 Annual budget for the SLM component of the Approach

Comments (e.g. main sources of funding/ major donors):

Approach costs were met by the following donors: government (Local founds): 15.0%; other: 85.0%

5.2 Financial/ material support provided to land users

Did land users receive financial/ material support for implementing the Technology/ Technologies?


5.3 Subsidies for specific inputs (including labour)

  • construction
Specify which inputs were subsidised To which extent Specify subsidies
concrete cement supplied free of charge by project

Labor force is not paid

5.4 Credit

Was credit provided under the Approach for SLM activities?


Specify conditions (interest rate, payback, etc.):

repayment conditions: credits are sometimes used, with interest rate similar with that of commercial loan.

6. Impact analysis and concluding statements

6.1 Impacts of the Approach

the technology intercepts runoffs, solves deficiency of water resources, and raises land productivity.

Did other land users / projects adopt the Approach?
  • No
  • Yes, little
  • Yes, moderately
  • Yes, greatly

it has been adopted extensively by neighboring provinces. Chinese Women's Federation has initiated the public welfare program named 'Mothers Water Cellar' in northern China.

6.4 Strengths/ advantages of the Approach

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
solve the problems of aridness and drinking water for human and livestock (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: continued project support)
strong extension mechanism (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: further strengthen the role of technical extension organizations)
Improve farmer's life (How to sustain/ enhance this strength: develop dryland agriculture industry)

6.5 Weaknesses/ disadvantages of the Approach and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
high investment for technology adoption use of micro-credits, optimized use of farming technology for high benefit agriculture.
weak monitoring and evaluation establish participatory monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

  • field visits, field surveys
  • interviews with land users

Links and modules

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