Course:FRST370/A coordinated approach to poverty alleviation and ecological conservation in Pingwu County, China

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About the Case Study

Location of Pingwu within Sichuan

This case study examines the ecological poverty alleviation in Pingwu county, northwest of Sichuan basin, China, using multiple references to explore the methods of coordinating poverty alleviation and ecological protection in Pingwu county, China.

Pingwu, located in the northwest of Sichuan basin, China, is an important ecological barrier in the upper reaches of the Yangtze river, and an important part of Sichuan-Yunnan forest and biodiversity reserve. Due to the fact that Pingwu is rich in forest resources, ecological diversity and has great forest development prospects, it has become the ecological barrier on the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. However, the economic foundation in Pingwu is weak, and the economic development is relatively backward. For a long time, the villagers lived in a life style of "depending on mountains and relying on rivers", which means their main income was tied to the natural economy, in terms of farming, fishing and logging. Because ecological location advantage is very outstanding in Pingwu, the state has established a large number of nature reserves in this area, which ends the villagers' dependence on natural resources, and alternative modes of production have not been formed. So, poverty became a major problem in Pingwu. To solve this problem, the government and NGOS have adopted various policies according to local conditions.


The location of Wanglang National Nature Reserve

Poverty is a reflection of the imbalance in the relationship between humans and land use[1]. By understanding the change in land use clearly may help alleviate regional poverty in the specific area[2]. So, understanding Pingwu's forest and land resources has been a huge help in lifting it out of poverty. Pingwu county is a county with rich forestry resources in the northwest of Sichuan. The land area used for forestry is 47,430,000 hm2, accounting for 79.64% of the total area of the county, and the forest coverage rate is 74.14%. There are 9 state-owned forest management units in the county, with a total of 213,151.63  of forestland, accounting for 44.94% of the total forestland in the county. The collective forest land of 25 townships (towns) is 261,122.43 , accounting for 55.06% of the total forest land area of the county, and 16.658 million , accounting for 37.57% of the total forest land of the county. Among the woodlands, open woodlands, shrubbery and unformed woodlands in the county, the forest area of natural origin is 313,153.32 , accounting for 66.03%. The plantation area is 159, 177.95 , accounting for 32.97%[3].

Administrative and Tenure Arrangements


      The forest in Pingwu county is collective forest. In Pingwu, the agricultural infrastructure is fragile, and the development of traditional and modern forestry is unbalanced. The method that impoverished household increases income is single, and stable increase of income is difficult. Due to lack of management, local forest authority is chaotic. When these forest dwellers can profit from forest resources, they can thrive; otherwise they suffer[4]. It is obvious that forest tenure reform is necessary. Pingwu county collective forest right system reform started in 2008, through efforts of the village people, governments and relevant departments, to take the approach in which things are easy before they are hard. By 2012 they had basically completed the county collective forest right system reform. In the tenure reform of Pingwu county there are several problems:

1.    The reform of forest rights involves a wide range of areas, the boundary of forest rights is unclear, which puts protection of forest resources under great pressure.

2.    The ownership of public welfare forests is decentralized, the compensation standard is low, and the management of collective public welfare forests is difficult.

3.    Logging of natural commodity forest is banned and compensation for ecological benefits should be strengthened.

The collective forest rights reform in Pingwu, Sichuan

Timeline 2008: Fully implemented ‎‎‎ 2009: Guide by region   2012: complete
Scope of reform Collective commodity forests, government-planned collective-owned waste mountains and wasteland suitable for forests, although public welfare forests are not included in the scope of the reform, their rights should be confirmed and certified.
Objectives of the reform Established a modern forestry property right system through the reform, in which property right ownership is clear, business entities have responsibilities and rights, the division is clear, interest protection is strict, circulation is standardized and orderly, and supervision service is effective. Promoting forestry development and increasing farmers' incomes.
Principles of reform 1.     Following the principle of classified management.

2.     Holding The principle of household contract management.

3.     Following the principle of people-oriented, overall consideration.

4.     Following the principle of respecting history and maintaining policy continuity.

5.     Follow the principle of classification guidance.

Contents of the reform 1.     Clear property right.

2.     Decentralized management.

3.     Exercise the right of disposition.

4.     Security of income.

People have the ability to benefit from different ecosystems[5], the methods used in different areas also vary. To solve these problems, and carry out ecological development to alleviate poverty. The tenure arrangements are as follows:

1.     Strengthen the propaganda of forestry policy and regulation practically.

Although forestry authorities have made some publicity on forestry policies and regulations, some forestry farmers have lagged behind in understanding the guidance of forestry policies due to their living habits handed down from generation to generation. At present, many forest-farmers lack understanding of state policies, they sold blindly when the stand was assigned to a person. So, local forestry departments strengthened policy publicity, which makes local people realize their rights and the value of forest they own.

2.     Establishing a sound ecological compensation mechanism.

The public goods attribute of forest ecological benefit determines that the compensation of ecological benefit should be paid by the government; however, due to the high cost of maintaining ecological benefits, the limited financial input of the state alone is far from enough. Village collectives and part of the masses through becoming a shareholder, labor export, fixed dividends and other forms, working with cooperatives to develop the economy and achieve the increasing of income. [There is no verb in this final sentence: what are you trying to say?]

3.     Give full play to the rich tourism resources, the advantage of a beautiful ecological environment, to develop eco-tourism.

The need for ecotourism to mitigate the conflict between conservation and economic development has increased and has a further growing trend in the future[6]. In recent years, Pingwu county will turn ecological resources into tourism industry. Make full use of local natural resources like natural reserve, attracting tourists increases revenue.

4.     Regard ecological employment as an important method to increase the income of poor households.

Pingwu county actively promotes the establishment of special anti-poverty and afforestation cooperatives, and guides large afforestation enterprises and forest-related organizations to establish special anti-poverty and afforestation cooperatives. The labor cost of the poor members shall not be less than 27% of the government afforestation projects which shall be arranged to afforestation projects by contract. In Pingwu county, ecological employment is an important method to increase the income of poor households. The forestry ministry has recruited 664 ecological forest rangers, which can increase the income of 664 poor families (accounting for about 10% of the total number of poor families in the county) by 5,000 yuan every year. More than 20 poor people were encouraged to participate in the ecological patrol, which created 3,840 yuan increasing income per year[7].

Ecological poverty alleviation requires external help, but also local efforts. External elites, projects, ideas and technologies have contributed to the promotion of ecological poverty alleviation. Ecological poverty alleviation will have lasting vitality only if it is based on the local area. How to coordinate the relationship between ecological environmental protection and sustainable poverty alleviation in poverty areas is also a problem that policy makers must solve [8].

Tenure Arrangements


1950-1952 The state has realized the farmer' private ownership of land, abolished the feudal land private ownership, and the farmers in the whole province have basically shared the land

1953-1956 Agricultural mutual aid groups and primary cooperatives (keeping the private ownership of farmers' land) will be implemented, and agriculture will change from a small-scale individual economy to a large-scale cooperative economy

1958-1978 The formation of high-level agricultural cooperatives and people' communes and the centralized management of land actually weakened the farmers' right to use the land.

1979 The state has started to establish a Sino foreign joint venture with the land use right as its capital contribution or collect from the Sino foreign joint venture. The land use right can be used as the joint venture of the Chinese side


1982 Household contract responsibility system started to be implemented

1984 The third "No.1 Document" of the "three rural" issue was issued, and the land contract period was extended

1986 The land management law has established the land management system from province to county

1987 The right to use can be transferred with compensation

1988 Land management law was issued, and land use fees (taxes) were collected

1993 The contract period of cultivated land is extended for another 30 years; farmers are allowed to transfer the land contract and management rights according to law, voluntarily and with compensation

2001 The state began to allow the legal transfer of rural land

After 2008

2008- The reform of land system in the reform of rural property right system

Professional Cooperatives

Pingwu County actively seeks and establishes cooperatives. For example, in Guanba village, some villagers spontaneously set up "Pingwu County Guanba beekeeping professional cooperative." The cooperative is growing rapidly. Here are the changes from 2009 to 2019[9]

  2009 2017
Number of hives 300 Old boxes 300 Old box and 200 New boxes
breeding methods only one collective beehive 5 contracted production bases
Apiculture technology Basically, do not understand epidemic prevention measures, no technical exchanges Animal husbandry bureau and Chengdu apiculture association technicians field guidance, farmers in schools to learn knowledge
Honey production 1500kg 2500kg
sale price 16-24¥/kg 100-160¥/kg
sales mode Self-locking Order sales/e-commerce
distribution channel Few customer Stable customer
preservation behavior Only convention The 8-member ecological environment monitoring patrol team regularly monitors honey source, water source, climate and wildlife every month
management mechanism none Form assets, establish organizational structure and division of labor, establish system and management mechanism (product supervision, financial disclosure, profit distribution, etc.)



Economic benefits: the quality assurance of "panda honey" and "local honey in Tibet" is the product reputation and market demand. The price of honey is 50 yuan/kg, 20% higher than the local market price. Since 2013, the cooperative has distributed 66240 yuan for two consecutive years. In 2014, the average annual income of beekeepers in Guanba village was 3000-4000 yuan, among which the income of the largest beekeepers reached 46000 yuan in 2014.[9]

Ecological benefits: the beekeeping industry has gradually replaced the environmentally unfriendly industry, the production mode of residents has changed, and the consumption of natural resources has decreased. Stable income encourages residents to reduce hunting, medicine digging, grazing and other production activities that consume natural resources. The ecological feedback mechanism was initially established, and the development method changed from natural resource consumption to natural resource investment. The cooperative will use 10% of the honey sales revenue as welfare fund to give back to the community for purchasing beekeeping tools, improving environmental protection technology and maintaining community infrastructure. Let part of the benefits of community economic development return to the activities of supporting ecological protection, and form a positive interaction between economic development and ecological protection.


1.The development of specialized farmer cooperatives needs a process; large-scale administrative promotion is not necessarily beneficial. The operation of Guanba beekeeping professional cooperative is inseparable from the participation and guidance of social institutions.

2. Bureaucracy still exists, and the local government cannot only take the scale of industry and the increase of farmers' income as the main indicators [indicators of what?].

Discussion Area

Objectives of Pingwu County's development model

Pingwu County is located in the northwest of Sichuan Basin, the upper reaches of Fujiang River, the secondary tributary of the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River, with a forest coverage rate of 74.14%. The local natural resources are plentiful, and the biodiversity is high, but the economic situation is unfortunate, and poverty is severe. How to coordinate economic development and ecological protection has become the most critical issue in Pingwu County.

The achievement that Pingwu county obtains at present

Significant effect of ecological compensation strategy:

In the past four years, 143000 mu of farmland have been converted to forest in Pingwu County, involving 4321 households, covering 44 villages (including 17 poverty-stricken villages; 1915 poverty-stricken households completed 9427.8 mu of land conversion to the forest and cashed in subsidy fund 3412 [what does this mean?] The average annual income of each poor household is 4500 yuan. Accumulative cash of public welfare forest compensation fund in recent four years 9228 Ten thousand yuan, helping each poor household to achieve an annual income increase of more than 500 yuan[7]. Ecological compensation and payments for Ecosystem services are closely related to each other. The government first evaluates the situation of different local villages, learns local information and stakeholders' interests, and sets up corresponding schemes. [10]

Industries develop rapidly

The primary industries in Pingwu County are tourism with ethnic minorities and natural environment as highlights and agriculture with bee products as main products. In 2018, the number of people receiving forest tourism in Pingwu County reached 4 million, realizing the total tourism revenue 40 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 20%. In terms of the beekeeping industry. By 2018, three large-scale enterprises had been set up in the local area, driving the average annual income of poor households to increase by 3000 yuan, and the average annual growth of the collective economy of poor villages to exceed 10000 yuan.[7]

Villagers' awareness of democracy increased

In the process of participating in the cooperative, the villagers gradually have a better understanding of the democratic mechanism of collective economic organizations such as cooperatives. For example, the development idea and specific scheme design of the pilot project of Guanba nature reserve attach great importance to the participation of villagers, through full discussion and consultation of villagers, and make joint decisions. When applying for the establishment of Guanba nature reserve, each household has a representative to participate in and express opinions. The decision-making is also democratic through the "one thing, one discussion" system of Guanba village.

External groups have a positive impact on local development

External enterprises and organizations are also actively participating in local construction. Sichuan Western Nature Conservation Foundation established the Motianling Nature Reserve in Laohegou, with an investment of 180 million yuan, which led to more than 20 poor people to participate in the ecological patrol and protection. The annual per capita income increased by 3840 yuan[11].

2018 In March, Alibaba took Pingwu as the first pilot county of Alibaba Group' s poverty alleviation model. The Alibaba poverty alleviation foundation, the Chinese Academy of Sciences ecological environment research Centre, Shanshui natural Protection Centre and the Peach Garden Ecological Protection Foundation jointly launched over 2.7 acres of forest in the dam protection area through the Alipay Ant Forest platform. These protected areas were respectively responsible for 11 million 790 thousand netizens.

The environment has been restored and improved.

Taking Guanba village in Pingwu County as an example, the local government carried out the forest multi-benefit carbon neutralization project in Yangdi mountain and a total of the forest area is 4.46 hm2. At present, in addition to the adequate protection of giant panda population, the number of Sichuan golden monkey, red-bellied golden pheasant, antelope and other rare wild animals have increased significantly, and their ecological functions have been expertly explained. In high altitude areas, community-based ecotourism (CBET) has achieved sound social effects, significantly increasing the income and well-being of local families. At the same time, CBET has significantly improved the family' s protective attitude and environmental protection[6]

Problems in the development mode of Pingwu County

1. Inadequate infrastructure construction

Pingwu local economic development has improved, but other local infrastructure construction is still insufficient. For example, the local medical conditions are poor; once farmers get sick, they will have a significant negative impact on production and life. For example, in Yatouping village, 63.89% of the 36 poor households are weak due to illness (Table 2). Besides, the construction of transportation and education facilities also needs to be improved. The transportation in Yatouping village is inconvenient, the education level of farmers is low, and the willingness of poor households to take the initiative to get rid of poverty is not very strong. There are only 17 poor households in the whole village who have the initiative to get rid of poverty.[12]

2. There are still many loopholes in the specific measures

When the poor villages get policy guidance, the specific implementation measures also need to have detailed planning. However, the planning of many regions is only conceptual, and there are few specific implementation policies with high accuracy and policies for an industry or an enterprise.

3. New problems appear in the later stage of development

After the income of poor households increases, the phenomenon of rich people and poor villages will occur in the local area. The income of farmers has increased significantly, but the collective economy of village-level organizations may even be in debt. Some new problems will also be exposed, such as the deterioration of the ecological environment, the increase of regional pollution caused by a large number of tourists, cultural shock and other issues. The government is also in a dilemma: on the one hand, it needs to develop the economy and consolidate the effect of poverty alleviation; on the other hand, it needs to bear various costs, such as order maintenance and garbage removal.


Affected stakeholders

The affected stakeholders are defined as any individuals, groups or entities affected by activities in the forest areas claimed by local customs.

1.     Local people have customary rights and some forest farms. Villagers are free to participate in cooperatives but need to transfer the right to use them. The residents have obtained considerable income through the local ecological and economical construction. If they want to participate in cooperative decision-making, they can only communicate their suggestions through representatives at the general meeting.

2.     Local cooperatives can have the use and management of some certified resources, organize members to process and sell products to enterprises or individuals outside the country.

Affected stakeholders Related targets Power and profit level
Local residents and villagers Get more income

To participate in the protection and rational use of natural resources

High level of interest,

Medium level of power.

Specialty cooperative Access to and management of resources,

Business and manufacturing for profit,

Improve local economy.

High level of interest,

High level of power.

Interested stakeholders

Stakeholder refers to any individual, group of people or entity who shows or is known to be interested in the activities of the forest area.

1.    External organizations such as Alibaba Group and Shanshui Nature Conservation Center. They help local people learn modern ecological concepts, knowledge of ecological conservation technologies, protection of culture, and help to propose sustainable development models and systems for villages. Support local ecological poverty alleviation, attract people from all over the country to support local environmental protection through online platforms, and promote local products to the whole country.

2.    markets in other areas of the country, their aim is to obtain local excellence

3.    local governments, they provide policy support for local development and design development programs

4.    Experts, they support the establishment of cooperatives and assist in the scientific development of cooperatives.

Interested stakeholders Related targets Power and profit level
Alibaba business group,

Shanshui nature conservation center,

and some external organization.

Assist local ecological poverty alleviation Medium level of interest,

High level of power.

Markets in other parts of the country Purchase products Medium level of interest,

Low level of power.

Local government Provide policy support for local development and design development plans. Low level of interest,

High level of power.

Expert To assist the scientific development of local industries Medium level of interest,

Low level of power.


The local situation is similar to that of Naidu village in Yunnan Province, which is also rich in natural resources but poor in economic development. They all lack proper infrastructure and modern knowledge, and they are similar in the local system. In the 1950s and 1980s, China collectivized, and then all land and natural resources returned to the country, and the government managed on their behalf. Local resources became public legal assets. After the 1980s With the implementation of the "Household-responsibility system", Pingwu County has also implemented reforms, in which the use and management rights of collectively owned forests have been allocated to each family for 70 years. However, the development of Pingwu village is better than that of Naidu village, because Pingwu village has gained more support from external organizations, but the international market of Naidu village industry is more significant than that of Pingwu village, which is the corresponding countermeasures for Pingwu village to learn from.


1.     Strengthen infrastructure construction in impoverished areas. Pingwu County is a mountainous area. In many places, the mountain is high, and the road is steep, and the traffic is inconvenient. Therefore, the road construction should be strengthened.

2.      Residents should actively learn knowledge, receive education, improve cultural literacy, and actively participate in cooperative decision-making.

3.      Local governments continue to promote multi-faceted participation within and outside the region. Each poor village has different resource endowments, and its characteristics so do every poor household, whose human, land, resources and other situations are different. The government needs to mobilize the enthusiasm in many aspects, give full play to the leading role, and local enterprises should assume the primary role and social responsibility.

4.      The government should continue to improve the policy of targeted poverty alleviation, Pingwu County is rich in local resources, and the government should continue to promote the sustainable development of local green industries.


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  2. Ge, Y., Hu, S., Ren, Z., Jia, Y., Wang, J., Liu, M., ... & Bai, H. (2019). Mapping annual land use changes in China's poverty-stricken areas from 2013 to 2018. Remote Sensing of Environment, 232, 111285.
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  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Pingwu county adheres to the unity of poverty alleviation and ecological protection".
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  9. 9.0 9.1 Dai,X . (2017). Small-scale cooperation: an important choice for the development of specialized farmer cooperatives in China -- based on eight consecutive years of observation on the development of specialized beekeeping cooperatives in guan ba. Rural economy, (10), 123-128.
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This conservation resource was created by Yongzhen Tian, Xu Chen. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.