With over 20 million people working in sugarcane agriculture and production, The Guangxi Autonomous Region is crucial for China’s sugar industry. Starting in 2009, the region experienced a drought of historic proportions, creating shortages of safe drinking water and threatening to devastate millions of livelihoods predominantly supported by sugarcane farming. While the severity of the drought had an immediate impact on Guangxi’s sugar industry, it also exposed critical sustainability issues for the region’s agricultural sector.
To address these issues, the Coca-Cola Foundation, UNDP, and various Chinese government agencies launched The Guangxi Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative. Project objectives included the establishment of demonstration sites using efficient irrigation methods. In addition, facilities such as pumps, pipes, and storage tanks have been installed to transfer treated wastewater from sugar mills back to cropland. This provides an efficient means of irrigation and is projected to increase yields as a result of nutrients present in the reclaimed water.
As a second project objective, local residents gain access to safe drinking water. Through the installation of wells, water pipes, and disinfection equipment for drinking water, the initiative reduces the labor intensive practice of carrying water long distances (particularly amongst women) and is expected to significantly reduce waterborne illnesses (particularly amongst children). As a result, living conditions of sugarcane farmers and their families are substantially improved.
The project has served as a show case of better sustainable agricultural practices in China, and is expected to replenish over 50 million liters of water annually to local communities. To date, the program has directly benefited approximately 3,000 farmers and improved over 30,000 acres of sugarcane in the Shangsi and Longzhou cities of Guangxi. Through provision of safe water access, the program has also benefited more than 100,000 rural residents, particularly women and children.
With one-fifth of the world’s growing population, China faces an unprecedented need for sustainable solutions to agricultural production and water management. This project addresses these needs through sustainable improvement to crop yields and the provision of clean drinking water to rural communities. Through the program, The Coca-Cola Foundation will continue to invest on sustainable sugarcane projects in Guangxi to be completed at the end of 2012.