Course:FRST370/Projects/Community forestry in Huoshan County, Anhui Province, China

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This case study examines community forestry in Anhui province. The community forestry sub-project of Huoshan county poverty alleviation project in 1997 which received assistance from the Netherlands is introduced to find community forestry operation model in Anhui province and its importance in eliminating poverty and protecting local farmers' rights. The tenure regime in different historical stages from 1950 to 2007 and related stakeholders will be introduced. Also, the agreement between the government and local people as well as the power of each party will be showed. The relative power of important actors will be emphasized. In the end, some deficiencies and improvements will be pointed out.


The bamboo forest in Huoshan county,Anhui province, China

Huoshan County is located in the western part of Anhui province, the hinterland of Dabie mountains. The total area of the county is 2043km2, covering 24 townships with a population of 365900, of which 320900 are farmers. Huoshan county has complex topography Local people rely on the cultivation of chestnut bamboo and wild fungi for a living. Excessive exploitation of resources caused the severe damage to the forest.[1]For a long time, due to a large number of rural people and less land, severe soil erosion, frequent natural disasters, closed traffic, as well as a relatively low level of education ,Huoshan county had a backward economy. In 1986, the government designated Huoshan county as a "national poverty county", followed by the implementation of poverty alleviation projects, which improved the infrastructure conditions and living conditions of the poor people to a certain extent, but the development was uneven. By 1996, there were still 54000 people who were under the poverty line stipulated by the state. In March of 1996, the Chinese government and the government of the Netherlands agreed to implement a five-year poverty alleviation project in Huoshan county in Anhui province. The project is called China-Netherlands poverty alleviation project(CNPA), and the goal is to help farmers lift out of poverty.[1]

Tenure arrangements

The bamboo forest in Huoshan county,Anhui province, China.jpg

The tenure arrangement is similar to that of Naidu village. From 1950 to 1955, due to land reform,farmers took the non-state-owned land from a few wealthy landowners and possessed the ownership and right to use the land.[2]All the land was composed of the private property and state-owned property. By the early 1960s, due to collectivization, all the forest lands in China were state and collective-owned property.The government set up agricultural cooperatives to make farmers work together on state-owned land, and they did not have the right to use. [3]Because farmers lost the ownership,their enthusiasm for afforestation decreased.[4]In 1978, the household contract responsibility system was carried out through China. Forest still owned by the collective, while the collective economic organization subcontracts the right of management to the farmers through signing a contract. The collective economic organization was responsible for the supervision of the performance of the farmers. Farmers should give a part of their income to the state and the collective.[5]By the year 1980, the ownership of trees and land were separated.[2]In 1982, after "forestry three determinations" which was a plan made by the government to determine the right of mountains and forests. All the forest lands except state-owned forest lands and collective forest lands were private forest lands, composing of the responsibility mountain and private mountain. Governments at or above the county level issued forest right certificates to confirm the ownership of trees and the right to use lands.[6] For the private mountain, the collective had the ownership of the mountain, and farmers had the ownership of trees in the mountain. Inheritance and paid transfer were allowed. For the responsibility mountain, the collective had the ownership of the mountain and trees, and farmers only had the right of management.[7]Because people's ownership of forest was recognized by the government, farmers had the enthusiasm to manage the forest. However, the forest owned by farmers only represented 20.32% of all the forests.[4]

In 2007, there was a collective forest right system reform in Anhui province.Under the precondition that the ownership of collective forest land remained unchanged, the reform plan gave the right of management of forest land and the ownership of trees to farmers through the household-responsibility system. The plan aslo included reissuing and renewing forest rights certificates.[4]People continued to have long-term ownership of trees in the private mountains But for responsibility mountains,the contracting system should be implemented. During the contract period, contractors had the ownership and the right to use the trees. Inheritance and circulation can be allowed by applying for the "forest ownership certificate". [8]

The contract period is from 30 to 70 years, and the last contract can be extended one more time. If the practice of the original contractors is reasonable, the period can be directly continued. The ownership of trees and the right of management of forest by farmers is dejure. Collective forests which are in good condition and satisfactory to the masses, when approved by more than two-thirds of the members of the collective economic organization, can continue to be operated by the collective.[8]After the reform was finished, the right to use of 52.91 million mu of collective forest was distributed to farmers in Anhui province.[8]

Administrative arrangements

In the forest right reform plan, governments at or above the county level or the competent forestry authorities under the state council issues the forest rights certificates. [8]Township forestry stations(TFS) or forestry authorities above the county level are responsible for the forest right circulation. Township government reviews the forest reform plan and county forest rights reform office approves it. County and township government office verify the boundary of the mountains and forests. Farmers in the community should handle relevant forest licenses matters in the forestry comprehensive administrative service center. County law enforcement brigade is responsible for bamboo inspection, forestry case investigation, forest plant quarantine. [8]

In the CNPA project, the forestry bureau and its subordinate project office executed the project. The CNPA project office was responsible for monitoring, evaluating and verifying the status of the project. [9] 

1.Preparation: Field trip and plan preparation

Before the planning of the project, project personnel conducted the baseline survey. They visited the elders who were familiar with the local situation, as well as village committee cadres, local experts and villagers. To understand the basic situation of the project area and land resources and project activities of each farmer, they designed the "model of forestry projects ", "the social-economic situation of the farmers table ", and a series of files etc. Then the project office staff went to the project village to hold a villagers' meeting or conduct an interview with the farmers to publicize the significance of the project and the methods of selecting the target recipients.[9]

Farmers selected the forestry projects from the " model of forestry projects " provided by the project staff, and then filled in the "farmers project application form". The farmers who were approved by the project office became project farmers.[9]

After that, the forestry technicians from TFS surveyed the land of the project farmers and completed the small class survey table. In the planning of the project, the opinions of farmers were adopted. The forestry technician then compiled “the planning of forestry development projects in village”. The project office reviewed the materials together with the county forestry bureau and signed the project implementation agreement with each farmer. The project farmers then implemented the project activities selected by themselves and developed their wasteland and private mountain farms. According to the requirement of the project, they should also build water and soil conservation facilities.[9]

When doing the work of soil and water conservation in mountainous areas, there are some rules [9]:

objects: farmland and Barren hills suitable for planting trees around houses of farmers. 

Rules:1. Overall soil preparation is not allowed, and partial soil preparation is required.

      2. Native vegetation zone should be established for soil and water conservation

      3. Except for the transformation of low yield bamboo forest which can be arranged in summer, projects involving earthmoving must be arranged after the rainy season to avoid soil erosion caused by land reclamation.   

  4. Set up a system of technology demonstration households(TDH) who  are the literate households with good forestry technology to increase the scientific and technological content of the project.

      5. The management of reward money should be transparent.Farmers who performed well in soil and water conservation got rewards. The public should know the names of these farmers.[9]

2. Technical training at three levels

The experts are offering guidance to the farmers in Huoshan.jpg

The project regarded training as an essential activity to enhance the ability of farmers. According to different participating objects, the project office divided the training into three levels: trainer training, TDH training, and farmers training. The project office invited experts and professors from China Academy of forestry science and Anhui agricultural university to hold training classes for the technicians of forest stations. Training content included the participatory method(PAR), forestry technology, and management knowledge of the forestry industry. They also studied in Sichuan province which had mature community forestry projects. These technicians were then asked to provide training to TDH..  They signed an agreement in the project area which stipulates the production indicators and quotas driven by TDH. It means that TDH should provide training to the farmers. The staff of TFS should monitor and evaluate the impact of TDH on the community regularly. According to the demonstration effect of TDH, the rewards were given by the government at three levels: 500 yuan for TDH with good demonstration effect, 200 yuan for TDH with medium effect and 100 yuan for low effect.[9]

3. Farmer self-help organization(The organization of economic cooperation)

After the farmers received technical training, the project staff established the farmer self-help organization with the village as the unit. Farmers voluntarily joined the organization.[10]

The Netherlands government subsidized funds as community development funds or community equity funds for the training and acquisition of machinery. Each household paid 100 yuan as the member share and was entitled to receive the ultimate profit sharing.The general assembly which was the highest decision-making body of the association published the activity content and the fund operation.[10]

With the support of CNPA project, hundreds of farmers associations were set up in 9 villages and towns of Huoshan County, such as forestry (bamboo, chestnut) association, tea association, drug and lily association and women shoe industry association. There are three models of farmers’ association based on different purposes[10]:

1.    Production and management: An organization formed by farmers for technical exchange.[10]

2.    Community development fund:The funds were used for restoring the environment and sustainable development.[10]

3.  Community equity fund:Farmers each held the membership shares to start forest product processing enterprises.[10]

The farmers democratically elected the board of directors (BOD) and the board of supervisors(BOS) of the self-help organizations by secret ballot. [10]So it is a democratic process and the organization is a representative NGO. BOD and BOS used PAR to formulate important regulations and management system including association constitution and financial management system.[10]

Actor Duty
BOS 1.Supervising and auditing BOD

2. Appointing the factory director and established workshops to process forest products

3. Supervising whether the management function of BOD was performed and whether funds were allocated under relevant regulations[10]

BOD 1. implementing the articles of association and resolutions and managing the community development fund[10]
Factory director Hiring management personnel who manage farmers[10]

I think the organization is similar to the MICA and JECA in Zanzibar because they all offer training to the villagers.[11] JECA and MICA proposed credit plan based on the joint-stock system which is one of the systems in self-help organization. Besides, both of them accept the help of foreign countries or international organizations.[11]

The project office will send technicians to check whether the activities in the forest land contracted by farmers are in line with the aims of environmental protection and sustainable development. If the activities are in line with the indicators, farmers will be given rewards. If not, technical guidance will be given.[10]

Affected Stakeholders

  1. Farmers who rely on chestnut, bamboo and other forest resources( high interest, medium power): Objectives:They want to get rid of poverty. They want to transform the low-yield forest of Chinese chestnut and bamboo. They want to restore the damaged environment so that they can continue to depend on forest resources for survival. Power: They had the right to decide whether to participate in the community forestry project and the right to express the views about the project. They can choose forestry projects which suit their conditions from forestry programs 

[9]With the forest right certificate , they have the ownership of the forest products and can deport other people who want to go into the forest and get forest resources.

2. Memebers of Farmers self-help organization (high interest, medium power): 

Objectives: 1. Through the training and the mutual exchange of skills between members, farmers can improve their productivity. 2. It assists the government to carry out rural work and acts as a "bridge" role between the farmers and the government. Farmers will band together and change their weak position in the market. The ultimate goal is to increase the income of farmers. Also, they rely on the forest resources to survive.  [10]

Power: They can manage the organization free from government interference and every member can participate in the decision-making and management. They can use the funds provided by the project to open factories, but they must abide by the rules of environment protection, or they will be punished. They are shareholders of the organization and get dividends from the organization.[9]

3. Farmers participating in the project(high interest ,medium power): 

Objectives:They join the organization to become a shareholder to get dividends and receive technical guidance.

Power: They can elect the board of directors and board of supervisors and participate in management and decision-making in the general assembly.[9]

4.  TDH(high interest ,low power):Their performance in the project determined whether they can get the bonus or not from the government, and they depend on local forest resources to survive. 

Interested Outside Stakeholders

  1. Central government(high interest , high power): 


Through joint community forestry projects with the Netherlands, the government helps farmers to improve their skills, enhance the productivity of existing mountain fields and restore the environment. [9]

Power: It provides the project fund and establishes basic framework of the project. It leads the Anhui provincial government in implementing the project.[9]It can make forest right system and enact the laws of forest right and land right. 

2. CNPA project office in Huoshan County, Anhui province( medium interest , medium power):

2. CNPA project office in Huoshan County (medium interest, medium power): 

Workers in the project office carry out the central government's plan, and they get paid no matter how the project turns out. They perform their duties, including recruitment of trainers, reward and punishment mechanisms, revision of project plan, signing of the project agreement with farmers and TDH, and evaluation of the performance of farmers and TDH. [9]

3. The county forestry bureau (low interest, medium power): It reviews project plan.[12]The result of the project and the forest situation do not affect the salary they get.

4. Forestry technician of TFS (low interest, low power): They are responsible for land survey, planning, training and inspection.  [12]They provided technical guidance to villagers.[6]The result of the project and the forest situation do not affect the salary they get.

5. The Dutch government(high interest , low power):They provided funds .But just like international NGO, they did not live in Huoshan.[10]

6. Experts from the Chinese Academy of forestry, etc(low interest , low power):They offer training.[12]The result of the project do not affect the salary they get. They do not live in Huoshan county and do not care about it.

7. County government(low interest, high power): They can issue the forest right certificate according to the laws.

8. Buyers who buy chestnut and other forest product from Huoshan (medium interest, low power): If the project is not successful and the forest resources are destroyed, they can buy these products from other places.


1. Conflicts and solutions:

Firstly, Local farmers were accustomed to cultivating edible (medicinal) bacteria such as mushroom fungus in wooden sections. It led to excessive cutting which caused the severe destruction of natural secondary forest resources. With the financial support and technical guidance of CNPA, farmers started to have an awareness of the orderly development and rational utilization of forestry resources. The project provided 50,000 yuan fund and determined 160hm2 of the cultivated area of the enclosed hill for afforestation. Farmers can annually cut off the target species and understory attachments as raw materials for the cultivation of edible (medicinal) bacteria. It not only protected the resources but also made the resources to be used for better development.[10]

The next issue is gender inequality. Women's status is far below that of men in Huoshan. The project office adopted gender system intervention to promote women's employment.[10]It financed the establishment of women shoe associations. Also, project activities based on women's physiological characteristics were designed.  [13]

The third issue is the low prices of forest products and sales difficulties. Farmers lived in remote mountainous area found it difficult to sell bamboo because of the inconvenient traffic and the lake of information.[14]

Given the problem of low prices of local bamboo, the bamboo organization developed its members through voluntary investment by farmers and set up bamboo processing workshops. Since the implementation of bamboo processing activities, the purchase price of local bamboo had generally increased by 0.5-0.8 yuan per root. Farmers can do farm work in autumn and work in the workshop in free time. They did not have to leave their hometown and find jobs in cities. Instead, they can earn enough money and take care of the home. [10]

The fourth issue is the relationship between farmers and the government. Before the implementation of the project, government officials were issuing orders from above, not listening to the farmers’ opinions. One farmer said, "In the old days, cadres only came to the valley when they wanted money (collecting taxes) and life (carrying out the family planning policy).”[1]Farmers were angry at the government's indifference. So they did not cooperate with the government. The conflicts between the two groups were getting more and more intense. By introducing a participatory approach, the government changed the working mode from “cold” command to co-ordination and service. After communicating with farmers and understanding their difficulties, the government provided technical and financial assistance and helped the farmers establish the self-help organizations. The villagers saw that the cadres were doing good things for them so that the relationship was improved. The villagers began to pay taxes and fees actively because they earned money.[10]

The fifth problem is the limited capacity of TFS. Before 1982, the main function of the forestry station included technical guidance on the collective afforestation. With the emergence of the household contract responsibility system, the function of guidance was weakened. The limitation of technical guidance led to the decrease of forest coverage. Also, unreasonable administrative intervention by the government officials who desired for money and promotion led to the appearance of image projects which ignored the needs of the masses and local realities. Project office organized the training for the technicians of forestry stations which helped to restore the technical guidance function of TFS. After receiving the training, they can provide professional training for farmers and help the government make reasonable plans and curb the unreasonable intervention of the government.[6]

Chinese chestnut in Huoshan county, Anhui province, China.jpg

2. Aims and intentions[12]

1. Technology training taught farmers production technology which significantly increased farmers' income.

2. The project promoted the involvement of sectors of government and community. It advanced cooperation between government departments and communities.

3. The project stressed the principle of voluntariness and helped poor farmers to select the activities they can carry out carefully. The critical point is that the rights of farmers were respected. 

4. The project restored the damaged ecological environment. By returning farmland to forest and developing the garden economy, the deteriorating environment in mountainous areas had been effectively controlled and improved.

5. The project improved the status of the women. In the design and implementation of the project, a certain proportion of women should be involved in each project activity.[12]

The above are the goals and achievements of the project plan. So I think the project is successful.


In the forest right form, the government legally recognized the farmers' ownership of trees and ensured the orderly circulation of forest rights, which improved the efficiency of forestry production. The management right of collective forests was given to each farmer and their power was enhanced.

In the CNPA project, I think the governance mechanism is improved through the adjustment of the power of all parties. Firstly, the power of farmers was strengthened. In the preparation of the plan, the government entirely gave farmers the right to know, say and participate. Government officials learned about the difficulties and needs of villagers through field trips and face-to-face communication.[1]The members of the organization had the right to elect BOD and BOS, and to express their opinions in the general assembly as shareholders.  [10]

Secondly, the power of technical guidance in TFS was strengthened. Before implementing the project, there was a lack of skilled personnel in the forestry stations. The cadres of the forestry stations only focused on improving the superficial achievements in their official career rather than doing what is actually beneficial to the villagers. [6]After obtaining technology through training, they can prepare forestry project plans and provide technical guidance to TDH and decide whether farmers can get a reward or not.[14]

Thirdly, the government also delegated more power to the TFS which helped the government collect information from villagers and understand the public sentiment to makes better decisions.[6]


1. The project was not implemented in the whole county. Villages that had successfully implemented the project should send representatives to provide financial and technical guidance to other villages, so as to reduce the dependence of villagers on the government and enhance the unity between villages.[14]

2. The farmer lived in the environment of "small farmer economy" for a long time, so they did not understand the market admittance system. In order to avoid the business, tax and civil registration fees, operators of the self-help organization did not go through legal registration procedures. Therefore, I think the legitimacy of these farmers' self-help organizations should be monitored by government personnel, to ensure the orderly operation of these organizations and avoid the risk of illegal activities.[10]

3. Farmers lack the ability to manage, so they can't really participate in the project. Leaders of self-help organizations are village cadres. So I think the government should offer management courses to farmers.[10]

44. Participants did not distinguish between the self-help organization and the enterprises affiliated to the organization, resulting in the fact that the president of the organization is also the enterprise director who does not perform management functions, but only focused on the economic benefits of the enterprise. The leaders who fail in their duties should be punished, and members should be encouraged to supervise whether the leaders perform their responsibilities of management.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Li,W.Z.,Wang, D.J.,Guo, W.Z. (2004). "community forestry: a new way for mountain area to get rid of poverty and become rich -- the community forestry sub-project implemented in Huoshan, Anhui province for five years". Forestry economy. 24: 45–49.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Liu, D. (2001). "Tenure and management of non-state forests in China since 1950: a historical review". Environmental history. 6: 239–263.
  3. Xu, J.Q.,Zhao, Y.J., Suh, J.H. (December 2004). "Community forestry for poverty alleviation in China with reference to Huoshan County, Anhui Province". Small-scale forest economics, management and policy. 3: 385–400.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Liu Y.L., Zhang, Y.H, Guo, Y.P., Yu, B. (2013). "An analysis of the historical change of forest right policy in China". Hebei journal of forestry and orchard research. 28(1): 89–94.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Shi, C.G. (2007). "China's agricultural industrialization management and household contract responsibility system. Journal of Guizhou provincial party school". Journal of Guizhou provincial party school.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Xu, J.O. (2002). "On the supporting role of township forestry station in community forestry". Forestry and society. 5: 7–10.
  7. Zhu, J.Z., Lou, X.B., Zhu, T.L. (2008). "On the status quo of private mountain management and countermeasures". East China forest management. 22: 61–63.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 Anhui provincial forestry bureau (2007). "Anhui province collective forest rights reform implementation plan".
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 9.11 9.12 Li, W.Z., Wang, D.J., Guo, W.Z. (2004). "Community forestry: a new way for mountain area to get rid of poverty and become rich -- the community forestry sub-project implemented in Huoshan county, Anhui province for five years". Forestry economy. 24: 45–49.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 10.15 10.16 10.17 10.18 10.19 10.20 10.21 Xu, J.Q. (2003). "Relationship between the construction of farmers' independent organization and the sustainable development of community forestry". Forestry and society. 1: 1–7.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Menzies, N. (2007). Jozani Forest, Ngezi Forest, and Misali Island, Zanzibar. Columbia University Press. pp. 30–49.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 Xu, J.Q. (2002). "Discussion on the scientific and technological content of household projects in community forestry and the establishment of demonstration mechanism". Forestry and society. 4: 6–9.
  13. Xu, J.Q. (2003). "A brief analysis of the ability of rural women to participate in community forestry". Forestry and society. 3: 11–14.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Xu, J.Q. (2002). "Discussion on the role of community forestry in anti-poverty in mountainous area". Forestry and society. 2: 21–25.

Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Yi Zhang.