Course:FRST270/Wiki Projects/Community Forestry Management Strategies in Wenshan National Nature Reserve China

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Community Forestry Management Strategies in Wenshan National Nature Reserve, China.


The location of WNNR

In 1978, the 8th World Forestry Congress made a conclusion of the thoughts and ideas of community forestry, emphasized on the importance of forestry with respect to social economy and environmental protection when signed Jakarta Declaration, and put forward "forestry is to serve for farmers in developing countries, contribute to rural economic development". Since then, with the support of international organizations such as Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the ideas and viewpoints of community forestry have been widely disseminated and promoted, especially in southeast Asia. [1] Framed as a more sustainable option to industrial, centralized and top-down forest management, community forestry seems to present a "win–win" situation that can satisfy numerous needs and values.[2]

Wenshan National Nature Reserve(WNNR), composed of Laojun mountain and Xiqi county parts, is located in Wenshan Zhuang and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. The total area of the protected area is 26,867 ha, among which the Laojun mountain area is 22,960.4 ha. There are five main types of vegetation in WNNR: evergreen broad-leaved forest, semi-humid evergreen broad-leaved forest, Zhongshan wet evergreen broad-leaved forest, moss evergreen broad-leaved forest and hilltop moss-brine. [3]Therefore, the unique geographical location and complicated habitat conditions provide good habitats and enough food sources for all kinds of plants and animals breeding that worth studying.The predecessor of WNNR was the state-owned Laojun mountain forest farm in Wenshan county, which was founded in 1962 and upgraded to national nature reserve in 2003. [3]

This case study is only limited to Laojun mountain district. There are 4 townships, 8 villagers committees and 42 natural villages. Among them, the production and life of 11 natural villages and 1,842 people including Han, Zhuang, Miao and Yi nationality are closely related to the protected areas. [4]Through investigation, local farmers have basically solved the problems for food and clothing, and the main economic source comes from breeding industry, Panax notoginseng( San Qi ) cultivation and non-timber forest products.[4]Land area of collective forestry in 11 natural villages is 1,564.7 ha; among them, "two mountains" in those villages called reserve forest( Ziliu ) and responsibility forest( Zeren ) cover an area of 1,105 ha; barren hills and unused land area is 459.7 ha. According to a survey, the vast majority of local villages have divided the forest into worship forest( Jisi ), scenic forest( Fengjing ), reserve forest( Ziliu ) and responsibility forest( Zeren ) according to the use and protection value; the villages have also formulated the corresponding village regulations for forest management.[4] To effectively manage the nature reserve, the government has carried out the "collective management" work in villages bordering the Laojun mountain reserve area, which is supervised by the forestry administration department and managed by village community uniformly. [4] Despite the success of this project that the local community has benefited more, but in the long run, there are still problems and deficiencies.

Tenure and Administrative Arrangements

FAO believes tenure is the relationship, whether legally or customarily defined, among people, as individuals or groups, with respect to land. Tenure is important to the livelihoods of billions of people. People with weak, insecure tenure rights risk losing their means to support themselves if they lose their access to natural resources.[5]

The tenure and administrative arrangements are as follows:

  • 1962: the state-owned Laojun mountain forest farm
  • 1982: state-level nature reserve
  • 1997: provincial-level nature reserve
  • 1999: The government carried out community co-management in 11 villages bordering Laojun mountain nature reserve, bring back the ownership of "two mountains"(used to be owned and managed by villagers in customary state), that is reserve forest and responsibility forest. Under the supervision of forestry management departments and unified management by villages, villagers can only pick up dry wood and deadwood within the prescribed time and cutting down trees is prohibited. Other villages are still in the form of reserve forest and responsibility forest.[4]
  • 2003: upgraded to national nature reserve
  • Local customary forest management:

This tenure can offer a form of local control over forested lands, providing economic and social benefits to more citizens as well as reducing existing or potential conflicts between user groups. [6]

(1)Worship forest

In the surrounding community of Laojun mountain, including all Han and ethnic minority villages, almost every village has preserved dragon trees that villagers see as "deities". The trees are thick, tall and luxuriant evergreen broad-leaved trees, such as camphor tree. The villagers use the tall and luxuriant trees to symbolize the prosperity of the village. In the first month of every lunar year, villagers have to raise money to buy rice and kill pigs in front of the trees. The sacrificial ceremony is presided over by the village's most prestigious male elders or village officials, and most of the sacrifice rites are attended by only men. Camphor trees are the sacred trees in the villagers' hearts, and they always take good care of those who grow naturally. Although the villagers were in urgent need of firewood, they would rather climb more mountains to go somewhere else than fetch the dead branches under the tree.[3]

(2)Scenic forest

Around the nature reserve, the vast majority of villages are surrounded by scenic forest that is linked to the village's fortunes, just like the dragon tree. If the trees are flourishing, then the villages have good luck. Therefore, the villagers always protect the trees in the scenic forest, hoping that the trees will be in the best living conditions, thus driving the development of the village. The villagers also consciously make the village rules for the protection of these trees.[3]

  • Village regulations: all villagers discuss and make rules to punish the people who have stolen and destroyed trees in the form of fine, limit the villagers' unlimited logging of forest resources and prevent outer people from entering the forest field(customary rights).

Affected Stakeholders

Stakeholder Villagers
Access (to go into the forest at prescribed times) Yes
Use rights for subsistence Yes(dry wood and deadwood)
Use rights for sale No
Management or Co-management rights Yes(co-management)
Exclusion rights Yes(punishing outer people who destroy trees according to the village rules)
Alienation rights (sell; give away; mortgage; lease/loan) No(the state has the ultimate sovereignty over the land)


Interested Outside Stakeholders

Stakeholder Main relevant objectives Relative Power
Wenshan county government (1) Carry out community co-management, bring back the ownership of “two mountains”

(2) Formulate a unified forestry development plan, give special investment and usufruct of its products to the village community

(3) Annual investment of 560,000 yuan(about 84,700 USD) funds to implement forest rangers' subsidy program

Wenshan county forestry department (1)Provide seedling and technology

(2) Organize the peasants in eleven villages to participate in the protection of protected areas and collective forests

(3) For the villages that have not carried out the patrol, the county forestry department will take the lead and select some villages to implement the integrated development and energy construction projects(e.g. biogas digester)

(4) Mainly responsible for law enforcement supervision, mediation of disputes, technical guidance service and department coordination, etc

Reserve management department (1)The law enforcement, community service, community forest management and community development

(2) Check and register the forest rangers



Discussion and Assessment

  • Aims and intentions of community forestry project

In the 1970s Jack Westoby addresses that forestry should "serve the people" in FAO. [7] The definition of community forestry also says that it is a process whereby specific community forest users protect and manage state forests in some form of partnership with the government.[7] Thus, the main goals of community forestry are always closely related to local community which include: (1)To enhance local control over decisions; (2)To enhance local economic stability through forest-based economic development; (3)To enhance sustainable forest management through improved stewardship and ecologically sensitive forestry practices;[2] By implementing community forestry and protecting biodiversity, in this case study, the Chinese government seeks ways to improve the living standards of villagers in and around the protected areas. It is very important to know how to mobilize the people in the mountainous area to take active part in the decision making so that they can actually benefit from the forestry management. The sustainable use of resources by local peasants and conservation of biodiversity by nature reserve is not inconsistent; on the contrary, nature reserve provides funds or opportunities for the development of local communities.

  • Assessment of relative success

(1)The relationship between the protected areas and the surrounding communities was improved by the subsidy policy.

In areas surrounding the Laojun mountain, about half of the villages are located in high altitude area with high mountains, steep slopes and cold climate, only suitable for some dry land crops. In the past, the villagers' income mainly comes from wood and bamboo cut from the collective forest and protected area, especially autumn and winter are the gold seasons for villagers to log. [4] Since 1998-1999 banned logging, the villagers had lost economic source and lived in extreme poverty. Food and clothing problem was not solved, children dropout rate increased, thus expanding the contradiction between WNNR and local community. In order to alleviate the contradiction, Wenshan county government profoundly realized that it should not only count on reserve management department, but also address the local villagers' production and living problems, inspiring them to protect Laojun mountain natural resources together with reserve management department. [4] One of international environmental laws, formulated in 1992 called "convention on biological diversity", specified that in the national legislation governments must respect and protect indigenous and local communities in traditional lifestyle, their knowledge related to the protection of biodiversity and the use of sustainability, and the rights to use them. [8]Therefore starting from 2000, community integrated management plan was full launched in Laojun mountain. It brings back the ownership of "two mountains", respects villagers' traditional customs, still retains the villagers management authority to worship forest and scenic forest, allows villages to set rules to punish illegal cutting, and owns 70% use rights of the fine, only need to hand in 30% of the fine to Wenshan county forestry department. In order to encourage local community residents to participate in the management, Wenshan county government invested 560,000 yuan(about 84,700 USD) funds every year to implement forest rangers' subsidy program. [4]Owing to the additional economic income, the villagers' protection enthusiasm was very high. Problems about the production and economic development in the villagers were partly solved.

(2)The management system of nature reserve is further improved.

The deterioration of the ecological environment and the rapid loss of biodiversity caused the state to take measures to establish nature reserves. In the early stage of establishing a protected area, the state has imposed a certain regional scope as a nature reserve. These regions are rich in resources or have high biodiversity and are at the brink of loss or destruction. Therefore, all production and operation activities should be stopped in the nature reserve. However, mandatory enclosure behavior does not bring economic compensation to communities and community residents or other political measures to replace residents' income. For the community residents themselves, the return from nature reserves is less, so the protection awareness of nature reserve is weak. Beginning in the 1990s, nature reserves began to consider ways to increase economic income for community residents, such as guiding community residents to make rational arrangements for the wood production and so on. [9]But throughout the early related laws and regulations for nature reserve, they were basically made from the viewpoint of nature conservation, without considering the effect of various laws and regulations on community residents' production and living. To summarize, the conflicts between interested stakeholders and affected stakeholders contain: a) It is caused by unequal accessibility, such as the establishment of new nature reserves, the location of the resources, the changes of social economy and status of peasant households; b) Conflicts caused by the resource quantity and quality, including the growing demand for the resources utilization due to the economic development, population growth, new product development, the expansion of urban and agricultural land and all kinds of natural disasters leading to falling quantity and quality of resources; c) The formulation and alteration of relevant national policies and laws; d) The amount of knowledge and the availability of information; e) Different cultural backgrounds and ethnic customs.[10]

To fix the conflicts between nature reserve and community, urged by the Wenshan county government, each management station within reserve department has developed a series of related rules and systems jointly with the local community villagers: a) Set up reserve management system of regular inspection, patrol and visit; b) To further establish and improve the registration system of forest rangers in protected mountain; c) The system of forestry punishment and reward has been established. [4]

(3)The government implements a unified forestry development plan in the neighborhood of the reserve, strengthening green-energy construction and reducing the consumption of wood.

The government will provide basic construction funds and technologies to help farmers build biogas tanks. At present, three natural villages have established biogas pools. The government's aim is to reach 100% of the biogas pools in surrounding communities. [3]

(4)Multi-channel financing, establishing Laojun Mountain Protection and Community Development Fund.

Most typically, ecological compensation fund is collected from the residents in Wenshan county. The specific measures for Wenshan residents are to charge one more cent per kilowatt hour, and 5 more cents per ton water as resource compensation. The funds are all used in Laojun mountain nature reserve protection and surrounding management work. According to the survey, only two of these, Laojun mountain reserve can raise up to 3 million funds each year.[3]

(5)Multi-channel environmental awareness education, enhancing public awareness of Laojun mountain protection.

Since 1999, the county government together with forestry, culture, news media and other departments used TV programme, signs, project report to let local community people fully realize the importance of forest protection and development.[4]

  • Assessment of relative failure

(1)The issue of forest subsidy can not fundamentally solve the problem of the villagers' livelihood and community development in the surrounding communities.

Actually, the belief that local control will produce better results than conventional approaches rests on three assumptions: a)Local people will manage ecosystems in a manner that is widely considered to be more ecologically sound; b)Devolved decision-making processes are more democratic and will lead to forest management that is more socially sustainable; c)Local control and more inclusive access to forest resources will produce economies and communities that are more innovative.[2]

In the case study, forest rangers' subsidy program indeed provides a stable source of income for villagers, but has cultivated the dependence and laziness of the villagers to a certain extent and aggravates the financial burden, making the community lost the real development opportunities.[4]

The reasons are as follows:[4] a) After the implementation of community co-management, Wenshan government need to invest 560,000 yuan each year as forest rangers' wages. It can support 1 year or a few years, but it is hard to say in the long run; after all, Wenshan is a typical state-level poverty county. b) The rangers do not be satisfied with 100 yuan or 200 yuan subsidies the government give them now, because 100 yuan(about 15.1 USD) a month can't help them to solve big problems. In their own words, the money is not enough for a kid's living expenses who is in a junior high school. c) Implementing the ranger subsidy system, to a certain extent, contributed to the contradiction between local community and nature reserve. Because the ranger system is only implemented in 11 villages, and there are more than 30 other villages which are located around the nature reserve. Research shows that the villagers think that the conditions of them are similar to those 11 villages, but why someone can have 100 yuan a month and they have nothing? Therefore, the subsidy unbalanced allocation has intensified the poaching and illegal cutting of protected areas.

(2)The reserve management department is still lack of professional forestry talents, and the management style is not flexible enough.


There are a number of recommendations I want to mention. These include:

  • A variety of approaches must be taken to address the needs of community villagers for forest resources.

There is no doubt that protecting nature reserves in the form of community forestry is conducive to biodiversity conservation, helping local communities to solve problems and promoting their development, but also fragile. The vulnerability of community management of forest resources is in the following aspects:

(1) The effect of community management is not sustainable;

(2) The risk of implementing community management;

(3) The ownership of forest resources( most are state-owned forests) : In addition to being cut down heavily by operators, state-owned forests are often stolen by residents from neighboring communities. For the state-owned property right system, the government tend to adopt the separation property management pattern of ownership and land usufruct. The implementation of community co-management empowers usufruct to farmers and requires that community residents manage forest resources.

(4) Community management mechanism(democratic consultation mechanism, power restriction mechanism, supervision and management mechanism, incentive mechanism).[11]

In my opinion, to avoid the vulnerability of community forestry and maintain the long-term development of community forestry, profit driven is the basis. The development of the community economy and the improvement of the living standards of villagers are fundamentally dependent on local forest resources. For example, ecological green products have broad prospects, and tourism with unique local customs is also a way out.

  • The implementation of community forestry must adhere to the principles of local conditions; making unified management plans and appropriate formulation.

Even in the same protected area, there are obvious differences in natural environment, social economy and cultural customs. My suggestion is that villages can establish Community Committee to improve effectiveness and legal action. To be more specific, the leader of the nature reserve serves as the chairman of the committee, and the village committee selects representative members to guarantee rules are made in a participatory and transparent way. The commission is the highest authority, representing the interests of the community forestry.[8]

  • Value relationships with local communities.

The local community should be an equal partnership with the government or natural protection agency. Because outside agencies focus on the protection of resources, local communities are more focused on the use of natural resources. In this case, I think the example of Kakadu National Park Management Plan to implement effective co-management of nature reserves can be used as a reference: native has close to 50% of the land in this national park, most of the rest of the land is also used by indigenous peoples. An aboriginal land trust company has leased the land to the National Park's department in terms of the agreement. Traditional aboriginal owners think national park is a kind of innovation to maintain their interests and to provide support for the development of their way to manage their land, so they would be willing to let the government manage their own land to meet the social and economic development and cope with the competition. [8]

  • Value traditional knowledge of the protection and utilization of forest resources by local community residents.
  • Introduce professional talents to the reserve management department.
  • Women are important participants in forestry activities and conservation management.

Women, like men, are managers and users of natural resources and are important participants in forestry activities and conservation projects. Due to the special position in family, they have special experience and the unique cognitive system of the forest, and the special knowledge will play an important role in the community forestry development. [4]Therefore, the status and role of women in resource management should be given full attention, and the community should provide them with more opportunities to participate in decision-making and training, and fully mobilize their enthusiasm to participate in community forestry .


  1. Yanjie, H. and Kunshan, S. (2001, November 6). Community Forestry: the Ideal Combination of Forestry Development and Ecological Soundness. World Forestry Research, 14(6), 63-69
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bullock, R.C.L. and K.S. Hanna (2012). ‘Defining concepts and spaces for the re-emergence of community forestry’, Community Forestry: local values, conflict and forest governance, pp. 1-22. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Yuming, Y. and Kun, T. and Shijun, H. (2008). Study of the Scientific Survey of Wenshan National Reserve in China. Beijing: Science Press
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 Qingkui, L. and Jianqin, L. (2004, December). Investigation and Analysis of Community Management Cases in Wenshan National Nature Reserve. Forestry and Society, 18-23
  5. Retrieved from
  6. Booth, A. and B. Muir. (2013). "How far do you have to walk to find peace again?": A case study of First Nations' operational values for a community forest in Northeast British Columbia, Canada. Natural Resource Forum 37(3): 153-166.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Menzies, N. K. (2007). Chapter 1: ‘Introduction’. Our Forest, Your Ecosystem, Their Timber: Communities, Conservation, and the State in Community-based Forest Management, pp. 1–15. New York: Columbia University Press.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Xiaotong, Z. (2016, May 16). Discusses the Legal Regulation of Community Co-management of Nature Reserves in China. Thesis of Jilin University, D912.6.
  9. Lizhi, Z. (2016). Community Co-Management: A“Win-Win”Format to Protect Natural Reserves and Develop Community Economy. Green Vision, 32-36.
  10. Qingkui, L. and Liping, W. (1998, June). An Application and Attempts of Methods of Participatory Forest Conflict Management. Journal of Southwest Forestry College, 18(2), 91-96.
  11. Huilan, W. and Guiying, S. (2008). Research on the Vulnerability of Community Co-management of Forest. Lanzhou: Gansu people's Publishing House.

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