Course:FRST370/Conflict management in community forestry in Nangun River Natural Reserve, Yunnan, China

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Nangun River Nature Reserve, located in Yunnan, China is a national-level nature reserve that is established to conserve biodiversity in the tropical rainforest, with emphasis on certain endangered species. The establishment of Nangun River Nature Reserve has seen success in conservation efforts and has since become a tourist attraction. However, not all things are positive as the establishment of the nature reserve decreased the availability of resources to surrounding communities, leading to conflicts. This wiki page will explore the establishment, tenure agreements, stakeholders, power dynamics, conflicts, and recommendations for the arising conflicts regarding available forest resources in surrounding communities in relation to the establishment of the nature reserve.


Location of Nangun River Nature Reserve, Yunnan, China. It almost borders Myanmar, at 2.4 kilometers away from the border.


Yunnan Nangun River Nature Reserve (云南南滚河国家级自然保护区, lit. Yunnan Nagun River National Nature Reserve Area) is located in Yunnan, China. Surrounded by Cangyuan Va Autonomous County and Gengma Dai and Va Autonomous County of Lincang city, the nature reserve covers a landmass of 508.87 km2 with forest coverage of 94.3%[1]. The main goal of Nangun River Nature Reserve is to protect and conserve the lar gibbon (Hylobates lar) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximum), and the tropical rainforest flora[2].


The timeline of establishment of the Nangun River Nature Reserve is as follows:

1979, May 9th: Lincang district (now city) forestry bureau approves the proposal following proposal: Cangyuan Va Autonomous County forestry bureau proposed the plan to protect the threatened animal species and vegetation in old-growth forests of Cangyuan Va Autonomous county,  and the request for more workers and budget to operate. Lincang district forestry bureau also agreed to provide conservation workers before the establishment of a specific division for this task[3].

1979, September 14th: Cangyuan Va Autonomous County forestry bureau formally proposed to Lincang district forestry bureau on the establishment of the nature reserve[3].

Nangun River Nature Reserve, prior to 2003 before expansion.

1979, October 25th: The proposal is sent to the Yunnan provincial government[3].

1979, December 3rd: Yunnan provincial government sent the report regarding the proposal in establishing Nangun River Nature Reserve to the State Council[3].

1980, March 16th: The State Council approves the establishment of Nangun River Nature Reserve[3].

1980, July 11th: Yunnan provincial government approves the establishment of Nangun River Nature Reserve Administration (NRNRA)[3].

1995, May 2nd: The Nangun River Nature Reserve became a national nature reserve[3].

1996, August 30th: The Nangun River Reserve Administration office established[3].

Recent changes

The initial nature reserve covered an area of 70.825 km2 , including only parts of western Banhong township and Banlao township of Cangyuan Va Autonomous County[4]. In 1995 its status was promoted to the national level nature reserve[4]. In 2003 the nature reserve has expanded significantly by 438.05 km2, with other provincial-level nature reserves merging into Nangun River Nature Reserve, and it has stayed the same to the present day (2020)[4].

Tenure arrangements

There are 3 types of land use tenure in China: state, collective, and individual.

- State property is owned by the Nation-State or Province[5].

- Collective (communal) property is owned by a group of people either statutory or customary[5].

- Individual property is owned by an individual or a group of people. This is the least encumbered form of tenure. It is often renewed in terms of 30 to 70 years[5].

In Nanguan River Nature Reserve and its surrounding areas, the land use corresponding to each type of tenure are as follows:

- Individual property is used for paddy, cash crops, and some individually managed forests[5].

- Collective (communal) property is used for swidden fields, community-managed forests, and pastures[5].

- State-owned property only consist of a very small part outside the nature reserve, mainly consisting of forests[5].

Administrative arrangements

- The State Forest Administration is the highest level of forest management administration in China. It is responsible for the supervision and administration of national forestry and ecological construction in China, to formulate guidelines and policies for forestry and its ecological construction, development strategies etc.. It is also responsible to supervise and manage the protection of forestry biological natural resources under the guidance of the principles and to organize and coordinate the implementation of relevant international conventions of national conservation organizations [6].

- The Nangun River Nature Reserve Administration (NRNRA) is a provincial level administration that is responsible to manage the Nangun River Nature Reserve by following the law and instruction from the Lincang Forestry and Grassland Bureau. It is responsible for the formulation of various management systems, including management of various eco-tourism activities, of Nangun River Nature Reserve. They are responsible for the organization and implementation of various plans in the Nangun River Nature Reserve. They are also in charge to coordinate and handle the relationship between the communities that surround the reserve, and promote the knowledge, raise the local people’s awareness about nature protection/conservation efforts[7].

- Autonomous county administrations are the county level administrations under the unified management leadership of People's Republic of China. These are usually established in the areas inhabited by ethnic minorities, and mainly managed the minorities communities. There are two autonomous county administration, which are Gengma Dai and Va Autonomous County and Cangyuan Va Autonmous County, in or surround the Nangun River Reserve and will co-manage with the NRNRA. [8]

- Village-level or county administration departments are the village levels administrations that separately manage the 12 village communities/townships surrounding the Nangun River Nature Reserve. Each administration is in charge to its village, responsible for managing the village which follows the instruction from higher level administrations. They also co-manage the Nangun River Nature Reserve area with the NRNRA [7].

Affected Stakeholders

- Local communities and people (including Rights-holding community members) which there are some surrounding residents, especially the Va people who have been traditionally living in the area since time memorial, in the Nangun River Nature Reserve. They are forest-dependent, and the forest resources are important to them, such as firewood collection, wood for building, and food provision. Based on the actual situation of each surrounding community, they formulated corresponding management measures. However. specific management measures aren't found in available papers.

- The Village Level governments surrounded the Nangun River Reserve, managing each local community and tenure division in each local communities, cooperating with higher-level administrations (e.g. The Nangun River Nature Reserve Administration) to manage the nature reserve.

Interested Outside Stakeholders

- The State Forestry Administration of the People’s Republic of China is the highest level of the forest management agency in PRC.

- Scientific research and technology firms are responsible to support and promote the conservation efforts by using technology in the Nangun River Reserve. Also, they help in developing the public facilities or improving the transportation system in Nangun River Reserve to develop ecology tourism to improve the economy for that area.

- Tourism companies and tourists can stimulate economic development in the Nangun River Reserve.

- Paid employees of Government Ministries. The labor force is an important factor that will affect the work for all of the administration. The NRNRA is in this category, and it is made up of multiple departments managed by different village-level or county administration departments[5].

- Logging companies and workers make interest and improve the economy for the surrounding forest and communities.


There isn’t an exact aim for the community forestry project as there were none, to begin with: the Nangun River Nature Reserve is not established to help the people there thrive by utilizing community forestry to manage the resources and species regeneration in the reserve, but to fence people out from a previously accessible community resource in a top-down fashion, and put people higher up in charge and their appointed workers to complete tasks in the nature reserve.

The main intention of the Nangun River Nature Reserve is to provide a place for species such as the lar gibbon and Asian elephants in China, where their population is so reduced that it is only found in this specific region in very small numbers[1]. But this enclosure used to be accessible resource has limited the communities around the nature reserve in the availability and the number of resources they can extract, and somewhat accelerated the exhaustion of resources in the area where it is not a part of the nature reserve[5].


Crop damage

The conflict in this area is mainly due to crop damage by the animals. Asian elephants alone are estimated to have done 90% of the economic damage by wandering outside of the reserve and onto crop fields[9]. An unequal power dynamic is shown here, in how the animals (specially protected animals) are allowed to walk out of the reserve and damage the crops, but the villagers are not allowed to use force to fight back or enter the reserve for resources, and they do see Asian elephants in a positive light[9]. The nature reserve also brings in tourists as it is a biodiversity hotspot, and its surrounding areas are all fantastic and developed for tourism for the people who love to see the exotic fauna of Southeast Asia[9]. However, the wealth generated in the surrounding communities is far less linked to the booming tourism industry: the most common goods they sell are wooden elephants, as the development of infrastructure is yet to catch up to be able to expand into the service industry for more value-adding businesses[9].

Differences in attitude alignment

Different attitudes regarding aspects of the nature reserve is not aligned in the surrounding communities[10]. The fact that there is no way to control the overlap between wildlife and human activities draws attention to the importance to consider both groups in decision making[10]. It is found that attitude regarding ecosystem services are mostly aligned (negative) across the 13 sub-villages surveyed, and the attitude varies greatly with different sub-villages[10]. Attitude regarding human-wildlife coexistence shows most divide between the surrounding communities and the NRNRA staff, with age of household head, household size and difference in sub-villages all playing a role[10]. Combined with other results collected from the surveys, it shows that there is not an obvious preference for a particular attitude[10]. This can make initiating changes more difficult for all stakeholders as there is no particular goals that are shared.

Insufficient compensation

Inequality in ecosystem services benefits are presented to the communities by the nature reserve[11]. For crop damages, the NRARA have a compensation scheme that takes a long time to process all the way up the chain[5]. If there are compensations the amount is minuscule, averaging around ¥100,000 RMB (adjusted for inflation, about $30,432 CAD in 2020) per year for all compensations issued for the surrounding communities[9]. That is only about 10% of the total economic damage done[9]. For tourism, they are being impacted by the nature reserve while not making enough to cover the damage, but the tourism companies are cashing in on a much larger scale and are only the interested stakeholders that can opt-out and move their business focusing on something more lucrative if it is available. Also, the ecosystem services may be area wide, but it is true that in surveys, the popular opinions have shown that what aligns with the values of the administrators are worth the least to the communities outside the nature reserve[11].

Assessing the conflicts

Assessing the conflict management and the compensation schemes from the current state of the system, there are still improvements that can be made. One thing that needs to be clear for the administration is to know where on the spectrum they stand: are endangered species more important, or the human community living around their habitat[10]? Both groups have been there since time memorial, and it is a very hard choice to make. Only then can people move forward to set up plans to improve the system. Without changing the current power dynamic, there are two major flaws that can be improved: the efficiency and rate of compensation, and the community engagement in managing some parts of the nature reserve, which will be discussed in the later section.


- State council established the Nangun River Nature Reserve in March of 1980, and arranged different levels of governance and forestry authorities to contribute to the management of the nature reserve[12].

- The Nangun River Nature Reserve Administration (NRNRA), they are mainly in charge of to protect the natural environment and natural resources in the protected areas according to law, investigate natural resources, establish archives and organize environmental monitoring; To formulate various management systems; To organize the implementation of various plans; To publicize relevant laws and regulations, and to conduct knowledge education in nature reserves; Responsible for setting and managing landmarks, various eco-tourism activities and other related work; To complete other tasks assigned by higher authorities.[13]

- Discipline inspection and supervision Team of Lincang Forestry and Grassland Bureau. They play a role as a supervisor to be responsible for discipline inspection and other actions taken at the reserve area.

- One of the most important social actors is the villager him/herself. Though the government spends a lot of time and financial resources in the area, it is they who make a difference by living there and making/seeing the changes, as well as using the best out of what the governments provided them such as basic wages, allowances, subsidies, compensations, and infrastructures.

Bundle of rights Government Rights-holding members i.e., tourism companies Non rights-holding members i.e., villagers of surrounding communities
Access Yes Yes Yes
Withdraw/use for subsistence N/a N/a No
Commercial withdraw/use Yes Contract/pass required from the government No
Management rights Yes No No
Exclusion rights Yes No No
Alienation rights Yes No No
Duration Unlimited The length of the term of the contract/pass N/a
Right to due process &


Yes Sometimes (pass required) No
Level of Power High Low Low
Level of Interest High High Low to medium (until accessible for subsistence/development)


Improvements in agriculture practices

Communities surrounding Nangun River Nature Reserve may need to slowly transition to a more effective method of farming. Whether this needs the assistance of a higher administrative body, it should be considered. Shifting cultivation limits growth in population and economic output, which is not good in today’s ever-changing landscape[5]. Though the impact on the environment may be minimal from the slash-and-burn, future national policies may ban such acts in the wake of improving the environment, whether on a large or small scale. This decreases the chances of conflict with accessing the nature reserve for rare subsistence needs and future proofs inconvenient changes that may be brought up in the future by policies that are not necessarily targeting them.

Negotiating harvest of resources for the collective in private properties

Without changing the current dynamic of state/collective/individual owned lands/forests, and traditional/religious practices on harvesting necessary forest resources, the best way to keep a steady supply of necessary forest resources may be to negotiate and designate particular producers of such resources on individual lands. This may run into issues with individual lands are mainly used to generate profit, but with adequate compensation from negotiating with the village head and all families in the village, this may be a solution without involving the higher administrative bodies, which takes time and money.  

Education that helps and informs

Education could be a way of aligning attitudes regarding the nature reserve, which makes decision making and initiation of projects much easier with common interests. This process should be down to earth, with practical knowledge and when necessary, pull information and wisdom within the community to share with others. This can take in forms of a mix of classroom-esque environment and fieldwork, with proper equipment provided such as high quality seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, amd small hand-held machines.

Inclusivity in decision-making processes

Administrative bodies, in the best interest of the community and the nature reserve, should include all affected stakeholders in the conversation and the decision-making process. However, as a national-level nature reserve, this may take tremendous effort to change. One thing that could change is the alignment of value and interest of more local administrative bodies that have the channel to higher administrative bodies and the communities, that they should come to an agreement with a more equal power dynamic. After all, without the support of the people, the governing body is weak. It is in all’s best interest to work closely with each other.

Re-mapping the boundaries

Administrative bodies may need to redraw the boundaries of the nature reserve. It needs to be realized that increasing the area of the nature reserve is not the only way to go. Give up and designate areas for certain harvests that the communities need i.e., firewood and timber for construction may be effective, even if the area is small. This does not equal steady depletion though, as the administrative body should administer activities that promote sustainable harvesting in such areas.

Simplifying structures within the administrative body

Simplifying the structure of the administrative body, especially at the local level such as the NRNRA is key to communicate with the communities[5]. Right now it is segmented into too many departments that is in turn managed by wildly different departments at a higher level. Making the NRNRA a more unified unit of administration will increase efficiency in communication and solving problems that are brought forward by the communities.

Seeking new opportunities that are value-adding

With the support of administrative bodies, communities surrounding Nangun River Nature Reserve should seek other economic opportunities other than agriculture without value-adding industries[9]. With the necessary training provided and if the communities are willing, value-adding processes of local producers can be made and sold since logistics are improving.


Though many sources are from the recent 10 years, some information can only be found in reports that are about 20 years old. The group tried to contact authors of more recent papers for interviews to gain a better understanding of the contemporary situation, however no results were yielded. Thus, some of the information may be outdated, especially in countries like China, where rapid proposals and execution of changes are seen in the recent years. However, the recommendations hold true more or less for a productive and positive relationship between the surrounding communities, administrative authorities, and forest resources.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cangyuan Va Autonomous County Overview. Cangyuan Va Autonomous County Overview Committee; Cangyuan Va Autonomous County Revision Committee. Beijing: Publishing House of Minority Nationalities. 2007. p. 197. ISBN 978-7-105-08553-8.
  2. "Yunnan Nagun River Nature Reserve". Forestry web. Archived from the original on 7 May 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Cangyuna Va Autonomous County Chorography. Cangyuna Va Autonomous County Chorography Committee. Kunming: Yunnan Nationalities Publishing House. 1998. ISBN 9787536714984.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Notice on Enlarging Nangun River and Other National Level Nature Reserves by the State Council". The State Council of the People's Republic of China. 26 August 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2020.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Lai, Qing Kui (2009). "Community forestry and conflict management: A case in Nangun River Nature Reserve, Yunnan, China" (PDF). Mekong River Commission Reports.
  6. "The State Forestry Adminstration of People's Republic of China". Baidu.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Nangun River Nature Reserve in Yunnan Province". Baidu.
  8. "Autonomous county". Baidu.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Tisdell, Clement; Zhu, Xiang (1998). "Protected areas, agricultural pests and economic damage: Conflicts with elephants and pests in Yunnan, China". The Environmentalist. 18: 111 – via SpringerLink.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 Whitham, Charlotte; Shi, Kun; Riordan, Philip (2015). "People and Protected Areas: Understanding Attitude Alignment for More Effective Conservation". Journal of Resources and Ecology. 6 – via BioOne Complete.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Whitham, Charlotte; Shi, Kun; Riordan, Philip (2015). "Ecosystem Service Valuation Assessments for Protected Area Management: A Case Study Comparing Methods Using Different Land Cover Classification and Valuation Approaches". PLoS One.
  12. "Notice on CPC Lincang Forestry and Grassland Bureu Committee on Reassigning Roles of Leadership". Lingcang Forestry and Grassland Bureau. 6 June 2019. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  13. "A statement on the Compilation of the Department's Final accounts in 2019 by the Administration and Conservation Bureau of Yunnan Nanrolling River National Nature Reserve". Notes on the establishment of the final accounts of the bureau. 2020.

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