Course:FRST370/Projects/Community forestry in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan Province, China: The swidden agroecosystems of Jinuo community

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Distribution of Jinuocommunity

Yunan Province has a high forest coverage rate, and there are lots of ethnic minorities settle down in the forests. In this case study, Jinuo community is a typical ethnic minority, which settles down in Xishuangbana, Yunnan Province, China. The agroecosystem of Jinuo community is swidden cultivation, and they hunted and gathered non-timber forest products (NTFP) as their supplementary food and other materials (Chunlin, 1999, 3). Before the establishment of China in 1949, the Jinuo community run the public ownership of land. After that, government gave strong support to help the Jinuo Community improve productivity, so the forestry became the majority of their producing. Actually, the traditional swidden farming in Xishuangbanna can be considered to be the seed of community forestry. (Xu, 2000,5) Although the development of Jinuo Community becomes better and better, this case study proposes several suggestions for them to improve their management.


Jinuo community is located in Jinuo town, Jinghong county, Xishuangbanna, a tropical region in Yunnan province, China. In 1979, Jinuo ethnic minority was recognized as a single minority, which is the last one included as 'national minority'. The population of Jinuo minority is more than 20,000 according to the census of the year 2000[1], which is one of the seven unique ethnic groups with a small population in Yunnan Province. Most of the villagers live in the subtropical rainforest, where is the home of elephants, wild oxen and monkeys. At the beginning of the settlement of Jinuo Mountain, the Jinuo nationality may still be in the stage of matrilineal social development. More than 300 years ago, the Jinuo nationality has developed from the matrilineal age to the paternal age. After the middle of the 18th century, patriarchal family communes based on blood relationship continued to develop. At the end of the 19th century, with the development of productive forces, the private ownership of some means of production and the emergence of individual family economy, the patriarchal family communes turned into rural communes. However, in this process, still tenaciously retains the clan blood ties, each children's village to the parental village to hold the annual ancestor worship ceremony.[2]

Tenure arrangements

Before 1950, collective ownership is the most common form, including common property management, religious rites and other activities led by clan leaders. (Chunlin, 1999, 2) Between 1950 and 1978, peoples’ communes governed the majority of lands (Chunlin, 1999, 4), so all framing activities were regulated by the communes or the upper administration levels. After 1979, the implementation of the Household Responsibility System (Chunlin, 1999, 4) promoted the production initiative of individual households, which caused the decline in the collective form in land management. In 1992, state forests and nature reserve occupied about 45% of the traditional territory and other 55% consisted of swidden fields and other land uses. (Chunlin, 1999, 5) What's more, Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve was one of the first three nature reserves established in China. However, during the first 15 years after the state employed the managers, Baka villagers were not allowed to farm in the nature reserve until 1993, when villagers can grow Chinese cardamom, a herbal medicine, in the buffer zone. (Chunlin, 1999, 4)

According to the customary boundary of the Jinuo’s territory, there are three categories of forests: nature reserve, state forest, and community forest. Community forest is the most complicated forest category in the Jinuo society. Community forest can be divided into 10 types, which include watershed forest (Long&Zhou, 2001, 7), the main water resources of human and livestock consumption and irrigation in Jinuo community, and the swidden-fallow forest (Long&Zhou, 2001, 10), where framers can regenerate their forest, which was considered as a sustainable system in Jinuo community.

Administrative arrangements

There are three kinds of land ownership system in Jinuo community: one is the public land ownership system of villages, the second one is the land ownership system in clan or surname, and the third one is the private ownership system of individual family.[3] These three forms of land ownership system exist in different villages to different degrees, but in most villages, the dominant one is the common system of land ownership in the unit of patrilineal clan. In April 1954, the party and the government sent an ethnic task force to Jinuo mountain region to publicize the party's ethnic policy, strive to unite the ethnic and religious elites and celebrities, and clear up ethnic relations and develop production. It united the masses politically, trained a number of activists in ethnic work and ensured the smooth progress of democratic political construction. In response to the social characteristics of the Jinuo ethnic group, the party and the government, in accordance with the principle of "unity, production and progress", adopted the policy of developing its production culture without democratic reform and transiting directly to socialism, which was welcomed and supported by the Jinuo ethnic group and achieved a historic leap forward. In February 1957, Jinoluo production and cultural station was established, and the stationmaster and deputy stationmaster of Jinuo ethnic group were elected through consultation. The Jinuo's people began to enjoy national equality and the right to be master of their own country.

Jinuo people

Affected Stakeholders

In this case study, local people and framers are the affected stakeholders, and their objectives are growing food for livelihood and planting some cash crops to earn money, so their incomes are affected by the timber and other NTFP in the forests. And they have high interests and medium power, because they cannot decide which part of forests they can grow food and some income belongs to the communes. They can just decide which food and products they want to grow in their own fields. And another one is workers in timber company, who can get their salary by managing the forests or logging trees. They are easy to affected the forest in this area, because the quality of trees and the policies of the community may affect their company and their works.

Affected stakkeholders Relative objectives Power & interests
Local people and framers grow food for livelihood and earn money by planting cash crops high interests, medium power
Employees in the timber companies earn money by managing forests or logging trees high interests, low power

Interested Outside Stakeholders

Higher administrative department, who has the highest relatively power, and their objectives are develop the tourism to increase the outcomes. Non-government organizations (NGOs) are interested in the quality of products and timbers in this area, so they have high interests and low power. Especially the environmentalists care about the wildlife in the forests and the diversity of plantation. Researchers are another interested stakeholders, who aim to do some surveys of the events happened in this area, because Xishuangbanna is a typical area with a wide range of wildlife and tropical forests in China. However, they can only observe the condition of the forests and fields or interview the villagers instead of using the forests. Thus, they also have high interests and low power.

Interested outside stakeholders Relative objectives Power & interests
Higher administrative department develop the economy and tourism high interests, medium power
Non-government organizations (NGOs) care about the biodiversity and the forests high interests, low power
Researchers do surveys high interests, low power


The benefits of Jinuo community is that the economic has been developed by accepting the financial and technical support from government for construction, and local people can earn money by selling their products. For the government, they can win the reputation because of the outstanding administration and develop the tourism.

The goal of government is to protect the biodiversity and improve the living standards of villages. On the other hand, as one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China, government should care about the living standards of all the ethnic minorities and try their best to stimulate their commercial development, which can maintain the multicultural environment in Yunnan Province.

However, the biggest conflict between local people and government is the land tenure arrangement. Government set up nature reserve and the area for tourism, which causes the reduction of agricultural fields for framing. Although most of families got their own farms after 1979, actually most of the lands belong to the communes or high level of administration. On the other hand, government are more likely to open part of forests as tourist attraction, and they may occupy some fields of villagers, which may make villagers unhappy and unsatisfied. Thus, some villages cannot reach the basic living standards and the enthusiasm may affected by this tenure arrangement. What's more, community and timber companies may have conflicts, because some companies may over-exploitate the resources for more financial incomes in the forests, which may lead to the destruction of forests. Especially the swidden-fallow cultivation may be damaged. At this point, local people may disagree with government, because their rights are not protected. Thus, the biggest challenge is how to maintain a harmonious relationship between local people, timber companies and government.


In order to mitigate the conflicts between local people, government and the enterprises, all members should take some responsibilities to improve the relationship.

For local people, it is important to enhance the awareness of land tenure, which means that all villagers should know about the law or policies of land allocation. Local people should try to protect their own power and use it. One helpful way is to have a meeting once a week or once a month, in which villagers can show their opinions and discuss about the agreement with the enterprises, such as which part of forest can be explored by the timber companies.

Moving to government, the main goal is to maintain the peaceful environment and unite all the ethnic groups. Government can give more tenure to local people, which can stimulate the enthusiasm of framers to grow supplementary food and other products, and improve the relationship between local people and government, which can make villagers trust the government and obey the leadership of the government. It is also significant to monitor the enterprises, because some companies may log illegally and over-log without a license, which is another way to protect the power of local people. By the way, government should pay attention to prevent the spread of diseases in this susceptible area, such as malaria. (Xu, 2014, 1)

According to the enterprises, their aim is to earn money, so some of them may not care about the environmental factors, such as the forest destruction caused by the over-logging. Thus, companies should actively cooperate with the supervision of government, mine and log within the legal range. On the other hand, respecting the swideen-fallow strategies in Jinuo community is beneficial to both of them, because framers can have a good harvest every year and the timber companies can log plenty of good conditional wood every time.

From the perspective of environmentalism, keeping the biodiversity in the forest is also critical. The government and forest mangers should encourage the planting of tea trees, which can increase the diversity of spiders and control the number of pests in plantation. (Zheng, 2017, 9). Moreover, protecting the soil resource is an important method to avoid the land degradation (Zhu, 2018, 11) and land tenure security is associated with less deforestation. (Robinson, 2014, 1)


Chun-Lin, L., Fox, J., Xing, L., Lihong, G., Kui, C., & Jieru, W. (1999). State policies, markets, land-use practices, and common property: Fifty years of change in a Yunnan village, China. Mountain Research and Development, 19(2), 133-139. doi:10.2307/3674254

Long, C., & Zhou, Y. (2001). Indigenous community forest management of Jinuo people's swidden agroecosystems in southwest China. Biodiversity and Conservation, 10(5), 753-767. doi:10.1023/A:1016671003027

Pei, S., Zhang, G., & Huai, H. (2009). Application of traditional knowledge in forest management: Ethnobotanical indicators of sustainable forest use. Forest Ecology and Management, 257(10), 2017-2021. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2009.01.003

Robinson, B. E., Holland, M. B., & Naughton-Treves, L. (2014). Does secure land tenure save forests? A meta-analysis of the relationship between land tenure and tropical deforestation. Global Environmental Change, 29, 281-293. doi: 10.1016/ j.gloenvcha.2013.05.012

Xu, J. (2000). The Swidden Cultivation Agroecosystem Succession: From Community Point of View. Chinese Journal of Ecology, 19(6):46-50. doi:10.13292/j .1000-4890.2000.0091

Xu, J., Liao, Y., Liu, H., Nie, R., & Havumaki, J. (2014). Use of bed nets and factors that influence bed net use among Jinuo ethnic minority in southern China. Plos One, 9(7), 103780. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103780

Zheng, G., Li, S., Wu, P., Liu, S., Kitching, R. L., Yang, X., . . . Barton, P. (2017). Diversity and assemblage structure of bark‐dwelling spiders in tropical rainforest and plantations under different management intensities in Xishuangbanna, China. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 10(3), 224-235. doi:10.1111/icad.12217

Zhu, X., Liu, W., Jiang, X. J., Wang, P., & Li, W. (2018). Effects of land‐use changes on runoff and sediment yield: Implications for soil conservation and forest management in Xishuangbanna, southwest China. Land Degradation & Development, 29(9), 2962-2974. doi:10.1002/ldr.3068

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