Course:FRST370/Community resources management, including the role of gender, in Maku Walled Village, Ma’andi Township, Jinping Autonomous County, Yunnan Province, China

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This case study examines Maku Walled Village, Jinping Autonomous County, Yunnan Province, China. It uses a variety of documentation to diagnose its tenure arrangements and evaluate its community resources management. The walled village maintains the collective forest tenure system as its main tenure system, although the majority tenure system in the People's Republic of China should be state-owned forest system according to the policies on the ownership of forest land published by the Chinese government. Many aspects, especially gender, are considered for analyzing advantages and disadvantages of this community resources management model,with the description of different stakeholders. The traditional management model is inefficient from the perspectives of researchers and authorities, while the villagers are unwilling to obey the constitution and women have few discourse rights in resources management. As a result, methods of forestry resources management should be improved, and also women's status.


Basic information of Maku Walled Village

Figure 1. Location of Maku Walled Village, Yunnan Province, China

Maku Walled Village, inhabited by Hani ethnic people, is located in the mountainous area in the southeast of the Yunnan Province, People's Republic of China[1][2] . With a land area of 3.28 km² and a high average altitude of 1360 m, Maku Walled Village is rich in natural resources, including lush forestry resources such as preserved primeval forests, abundant Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs), and a high level of biodiversity[1][3].

Maku Walled Village is been considered a poverty village because the villagers were financially dependent on low incomes from natural resources[3][4]. Besides, with the establishment of nature reserves in Yunnan Province, many local farmers were removed from the reserved areas, which means they have lost their natural resources to make a living[5]. Affected by the traditional culture of Hani ethnics, a low women status caused by androcentrism causes those female villagers to have no authentic rights in decision-making over resources management and utilization, while female villagers are relatively more dependent on natural resources than male villagers[2][6].

Hani Ethnic People

Traditional Culture

As a minority, Hani ethnic people have their own traditional culture influencing their ecological viewpoints and modes of resource utilization and management.

Traditionally, Hani ethnic people attach great importance to the "harmonious coexistence of forests, crops and people"[6]. The location of the village must be surrounded by Nagarjuna forests, which are considered as "magic woods", "guardians for the whole village" and "the symbol of reproduction and prosperity (mother)" and should be reserved[2][6]. Another key factor for village sites is a prime hydrological condition, as it could ensure a secure irrigation system for terraces in the village[6][7][8]. Several fete ceremonies are held by local people for appreciating nature (especially forests and water) and blessing good yields annually[6].

Forestry Resources Utilization

There are three main forestry resources playing important roles in Hani ethnic people's daily life.

Architecture materials (timbers, including bamboos)

Some fine woods are regarded as architecture materials and used for building houses and making livestock yards for Hani ethnic people[6]. Customarily, Hani ethnic people live in mushroom houses of which frames are two-layer wooden structures[6][7]. Timbers and bamboos are also materials to be made into woven bar fences of livestock yards[6]. It takes timbers and bamboos more than 10 m3 to build a mushroom house, and the trend showed the steady increase in the number of timbers consumption from 459 m3 in 1980 to 1456 m3 in 2003 in Maku Village[6].

Table 1. Amount of consuming timbers (m3)[6]
1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2003
Amount (m3) 459 576 697 857 1134 1456

As the main financial resource, NTFPs account for 47% of the total income of farmers in the Hani community[2]. Bamboos are not only architecture materials but also raw materials for daily necessities such as cushions and mats[6]. Bamboo shoots are also a kind of delicious food for local people[1][6]. Other food resources (such as wild vegetables), medicinal plants and feedstuffs are collected and sold by female villagers[2][8].

One of the most important NTFPs is Amomum tsao-ko, of which sale makes the villagers an average annual income of 1000 to 3000 CNY[1][6]. The Amomum tsao-ko cultivation which is inherited by farmers and adopted the primitive management methods might have negative impacts on forest resources, biodiversity and ecological environment, as it exploited a large area of woodland with backward technology[6].


In traditional room layouts of Hani ethnic people, there must be a fire pit in the middle of the house for worshipping ancestors[7]. Used for food preparation, feedstuff preparation and house insulation, the fire pit must keep burning as a sign to "the endless life"[6]. As a result, abundance of firewood must be collected to keep the fire pits burning. The firewood of which length is 6 to 20 cm is mainly collected by female villagers, and the pile of firewood is a symbol of women status (the bigger pile of firewood, the more industrious the women are, the higher status the women are)[2][6].

Table 2. Consuming amount of firewood in Maku Walled Village (kg)[6]
Content house/week house/year amount of houses overall
Amount (kg) 154 8000 72 576

Tenure arrangements

There are three kinds of forestry property in China: state property (13.44%), communal property (85.82%), and freehold or individual property (0.74%)[9]. Unlike other community forests in China (such as Naidu Village, Yunnan Province, China), the only tenure form for Maku Walled village is collective forests, as it did not follow the constitutional rights of Forest Land Ownership in China[6][10]. For that reason, the property rights are clearly divided, management is strict, and villagers are highly motivated to participate in forestry management[6].

Table 3. Forest Land Ownership in China[6]
1950-1953 Rural individual management
1953-1981 Cooperative collective management
1993-now Village community collective and individual management of farmers

Background for Achieving Tenure

From the 1940s to 1950s, Ma' andi Township was covered by old growth forests, which became thatch slopes and drylands due to steelmaking, brick-firing and lime kilning for the sake of an increasing number of people[8]. The decrease of forests had a negative impact on villagers' production activities, as a result, villagers voluntarily started to close forests and foresters were elected for forestry management[8]. From 1981 to 1983, most private hills and responsibility hills were not allocated to farmers at Ma' andi Township. as a result, the only tenure form for most of the villages in Ma' andi Township (including Maku Walled Village) is collective forests, which means they arrange the forests by following "Village Regulations"[6][8].

Administrative arrangements

Chinese Government Departments

Table 4. Administrative arrangements of Chinese Government Departments in Maku Walled Village[4]
Time Farmland Forest land
1950-1953 Land reform policy, farmland, forest land is given to peasant household ownership and management.
1953-1960 During the period of cooperation and public communalization, agricultural land and forest land were owned by cooperatives and collective communes.
1961-1980 In the collective period of the village community, agricultural land and forest land were collectively owned and managed by the community.
1980-1983 Rural household and land contract responsibility system "Forest three fixed" policy
1993-1994 "Four barrenness" transfer policy
1998-1999 Rural land contract policy system The natural forest protection project
2002 Rural land contract policy system

"The Forest Three Fixed"

"Forest three fixed" is a policy implemented from 1981 to 1983 to determinate land and forest ownership and to clarify the guiding principle of the responsibility system of forestry development[9].

According to this policy, forests, forest lands, and forestlands are owned by the state, community and individuals, if they have definite ownerships, their ownerships will be stable and unchanged, and the people's government at or above the county level will certify and confirm them by the forestry certificates[9]. A certain number of self-retained mountains (or wilderness, wasteland, etc.) shall be assigned to the peasants for planting trees or grass for long-term utilization if it is possible[9]. The forest farms owned by the whole people and agricultural collective economic organization must implement the forestry production responsibility system conscientiously in accordance with the characteristics of forestry production[9].

This policy implemented the relationship of forest ownership, established and improved various forest production responsibility systems and solved the disputes over forest ownership between the state, collective and individuals in Ma' andi Township[6].

"Four Barrenness" Transfer Policy

"Four barrenness" transfer policy, which was codified in 1996, is a policy to prevent soil erosion and land desertification[11].

The term, 'four barrenness', refers to barren hill, barren ditch, desolate mound and desolate beach that includes wasteland, barren sand, weeds and wastewater[11]. In this policy, the rural collective economic organizations would transfer their "four barrenness" use rights to the transferee within the prescribed time limit without changing the ownership of the land, and the transferee would agree according to the agreement[11]. Besides, the comprehensive management, development and utilization are conducted by the transferees in accordance with the protocol (contract)[11].

In Maku Walled Village, the guiding principle of compensable transfer of barren hills in 1993 encouraged the power and funds of farmers and all sectors of society to speed up the pace of barren mountains greening[6].

Local Administrative Departments and Grassroots Forestry Departments of Forest Reserves

Construction and Management of Nature Reserves: To Implementation Administrative Instructions of Chinese Government

There was an increasing number of Chinese nature reserves since 1978[12]. In response to the call of Chinese Government, in recent years, the Yunnan Provincial Government has considered the construction of nature reserves as a part of the national economic development plan. as a result, there is an increasing investment in the construction of both the national-level and provincial-level nature reserves[13]. Until 2013, the number of nature reserves in Yunnan Province was 157, which ranked 6th in China[5].

The conservation of Nature reserves in Yunnan Province followed the "Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Nature Reserves" and managed by inflexible and coercive means[12][13]. For example, the establishment of nature reserves compulsively removed local farmers from the preserved areas[5], and the boundaries of nature reserves are always adjusted to make way for development projects[13].

The Village Committee

The main aim of the village committee is only protecting the collective forests of Maku Walled Village[6].

Foresters System

Community foresters (four male villagers) are elected by the village committee to guard the collective forests and give logging permission[8].

"Village Regulations"

The village committee regularly holds village assembly for foresters and villagers to discuss and develop the "Village Regulation"[8]. Some specific rules for accessibility, penalty and so on for natural resources management and utilization are clarified in "Village Regulations"[8]. This kind of democracy encourages most villagers to protect the collective forests consciously and voluntarily[6].

Examples of some regulations[6][8]:

  • Nagarjuna forests is sacred and should be preserved: preservation
  • Prohibition on felling living trees
  • Cutting of firewood only permitted at a specified time
  • No livestock in forests: to protect seeds, leaves and other NTFPs
  • Foresters are elected to manage and supervise the collective forests
  • Closed the mountain (collective forests) in regular time
  • Digging the ditches and building the stone railing to prevent collective forests being destroyed
Natural Resources Management in Maku Walled Village[7]:
  • Forestry resources management
    • Penalty: fine - who destroys forests
    • District-ranger system: guarding forests
    • Logging policy: to define the allowable cut per person per day
    • NTFPs: cultivating and harvesting; selling (Amomum tsao-ko, palm and isatis root)
  • Water resources management
    • No one can destroy the water resources
    • Using water ram to control the water flow (it is gradually withdrawn from Hani people's daily life)
  • Terrace management
    • Digging ditches: introducing water into terraces (in the main ditches)
    • Water allocation:
      • distributing the water to farmers (in the branch ditches);
      • using boards to separate the water in the ditches;
      • electing a manager (Shuitou) to inspect and mend those ditches
Forest Resources Protection Methods in Maku Walled Village[8]:
  • Collective management of the whole village: there is the regular village assembly for foresters and villagers to discuss and develop the "Village Regulations".
  • Cross-village management: the village committees from different villages elect foresters to manage and supervise the forests, and villagers in different villages should protect the forests voluntarily.
  • Subgroup management: villagers are divided by different subgroups managed by foresters, and all the groups could supervise the collective forests with foresters in turn.

Affected Stakeholders

Table 5. Affected stakeholders
Stakeholder Primary Relevant Objective Relative Power (high - low)
The village committee • Emotional relationship with the collective forests

• To maintain sustainable natural resources management and utilization

Community foresters • Emotional relationship with the collective forests

• To protect and supervise the collective forests

Relative High
Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) holders • Emotional relationship with the collective forests

• To preserve and embrace Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)

Local villagers who want to protect Nagarjuna forests • Emotional relationship with Nagarjuna forests

• Preservation for Nagarjuna forests

Relative Low
Local harvesters • Emotional relationship with the collective forests

• To gather NTFPs in a long period of time


Interested Outside Stakeholders

Table 6. Interested stakeholders
Stakeholder Primary Relevant Objective Relative Power (high - low)
Chinese Government Departments • Macro control and guidance

• To maintain environmental health

Administrative departments • To manage this area followed the policies and guidance of Chinese Government Departments

• To maintain environmental health

Relative High
Grassroots forestry departments of forest reserves • To manage and protect nature reserves through policies and enforcement

• To maintain environmental health

Researchers • Academic reasons

• To get research results from Maku Walled Village

Relative Low
NTFPs Consumers • To get those NTFPs no matter where they are from Low


The original management methods for the community forestry project in Maku Walled Village are relatively successful, as the Hani ethnic people have high motivation to protect those collective forests consciously and voluntarily, and they are basically self-sufficiency in natural resources[6]. However, the intervention of outside culture and the infiltration of government are weakening this kind of success[6]. Besides, the low status of women and some backward management methods lead to a perennial inefficiency in natural resources utilization and management[2][6].


The Influence of Outside Culture and Government

In recent years, with the infiltration of outside culture and the intervention of government, the village committee has formulated village rules and regulations in accordance with national laws and policies[6].

On one hand, although the current status of some Hani traditional cultures in Maku Walled Village is the best-preserved one compared to other villages in Jinping Autonomous County, the impacts of modern civilization on traditional culture gradually change the lifestyle, traditional culture and values of community villagers, which means some customary resource management systems and methods are slowly fading out[6].

On the other hand, the management policies issued by government departments make it more political to manage some areas[6]. As a result, there are an inequity of public resources distribution within local people and an unequal ownership of cultivated and forest land use rights caused by the lag laws and regulations[4]. Another result is that the villagers are lack in self-consciousness to protect those areas, and the effect of regulation is worse than before[6].

The Role of Gender

The traditional culture of Hani ethnic people reflects their mindset of androcentrism, and the low women status in Maku Walled Village causes a lack of decision-making power of female villagers to manage the collective forests, while female villagers are more dependent on forest resources[2][4][6].

For example, the collection activities of NTFPs are mainly done by the elderly, females (mainly young female villagers) and children, while male villagers are prone to regard NTFPs collection as an inefficient activity because they consider that the incomes of NTFPs collection are not as much as that of going out to work[2][6]. In addition to agriculture activities and daily reproduction activities, women also need to serve their husbands, raise their children, take care of the elders, wash clothes and cook food, which are unpaid and are not considered as real work[2]. As a result, there is an inequality of gender division of labour because of a large amount of work and long working time for female villagers[2].

However, male villagers still have prejudice to female villagers[2]. Most of them consider those female villagers are too weak and uneducated to complete some agriculture activities independently (while they can)[2]. Besides, males are still the protagonist in decision-making in natural resources utilization and management, and females are in a subordinate and secondary position[2]. All the foresters are male villagers selected by the village committee[2]. The proportion of female members in the village committee is significantly lower than that of male members, and they only manage trivia such as family planning, health and hygiene[2].

Inefficient Resources Utilization and Management Methods

Besides the indifference of the needs of female villagers who are more dependent on natural resources, traditional skills, outdated opinions and illnesses of some local people might cause an incomplete use of public resources[4][6]. Here are some examples:

Firstly, the continuous burning of fire pits maintained by firewood is a waste of wood with low efficiency, as it increases forest pressure and it takes a lot of time to collect and burn the firewood[6].

Secondly, most of the Amomum tsao-ko lands are managed by farmers individually, which means the scientific planting technology in terms of content is relatively poor[6]. As a result, the damage to forest vegetation is relatively severe[6].

Thirdly, the community foresters elected by the village committee might not very motivated, because some areas have few foresters or no forester, or foresters have insufficient ability or responsibility to protect those collective forests; besides the foresters tend to spend less time on forest protection works because the incomes of forestry management and maintenance is low[6].


The Village Committee

The village committee in Maku Walled Village has much power to decide the methods of natural resources utilization and management in the collective forests. Most villagers would recognize the authority of it and obey the "Village Regulations" issued by it because its members are elected from the village (and most of them are males)[2][6]. However, because it only aims to protect the collective forests in Maku Walled Village, the natural reserved areas and other state-owned forests that are not forced to be preserved by villagers tend to be destroyed by villagers due to their psychology of taking advantage ('If the collective forest belongs to villagers, so it will be well-used; the forest in the reserve does not belong to villagers, so it is better for them to exploit resources there as much as possible'), which is another reflection of villagers' compliance with the management of the committee[4][6].

Local Administrative Departments and Grassroots Forestry Departments of Forest Reserves

Although the local administrative departments and grassroots forestry departments of forest reserves have relatively high power to implement management and administrative policies according to the constitutional rights of Chinese Government, their power practically is not "the real power". For example, some formulated policies (including "forest three fixed", transfer of barren hills, etc.) are not fully implemented due to the large implementing area, it is unable to take care of all aspects in the actual situation[6]. And villagers with low self-consciousness are prone to break the rules and carry out illegal logging in the nature reserves and state-owned forests[6].

Local Villagers

Local villagers have little power, and they just followed the rules issued by the village committee and relative administrative departments. However, sometimes they neither follow the rules nor shoulder the responsibility. For example, while local villagers have no right to participate in the management of forest resources in nature reserves and state-owned forests, some villagers living nearby only use but not manage resources; and the relative management departments of the reserve has no ability to prevent villagers from using the forest in the reserve, which is a severe problem in natural resources management[6].


Improve the Efficiency of Forest Resources Utilization and Management

Some high-technology should be introduced to replace those inefficient resource utilization and management methods. Firstly, some traditional stuff could be replaced by equipment consuming alternative energy. For example, fire pits could be replaced by the energy-saving stove to reduce the pressure of community residents on forest, the problem of illegal logging in the nature reserves, and the labour intensity of female villagers[6]. And biogas digester could be combined with livestock' shed to reduce the damage of livestock to forests and improve the efficiency of forest resources utilization[6]. Secondly, a scientific breeding and planting system, such as combining agriculture, forestry and livestock husbandry together, should be promoted to make it more eco-friendly. For Amomum tsao-ko cultivation, Amomum tsao-ko could be planted in barren mountains and slopes to facilitate vegetation restoration[6].

Besides, local administrative departments and grassroots forestry departments of forest reserves should have "empathy" with local villager in the enactment of certain administrative rules, which means the competent departments should make decisions based on the development and needs of the local community, and replace the role from manager to the participant or server of community development[6]. Inspection, supervision and accusation mechanisms could be established after clarifying the rights and responsibilities of foresters and villagers[6].

Improve the Comprehensive Literacy of Villagers: Education

Local authorities should provide villagers with educational opportunities to inherit Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), spread the idea of gender equality and raise villagers' awareness of protecting all the natural resources (rather than only the collective forests in their village).

Improve the Status of Female Villagers in The Utilization of Forest Resources

Local villagers should realize and acknowledge the important roles of women status in forest resources management and utilization through education[6]. Besides, to ensure equal participation of both genders in decision-making on forest resource management and utilization, the number of female participators in forestry projects should be increased, and the female villagers should be well-educated[2].


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Further Reading:

  1. Notice of the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council on Further Stabilizing and Improving the Contractual Relationship of Rural Lands (August 27, 1997, Zhong Ban Fa [1997] No. 16). (August 27, 1997). Retrieved from

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