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Minutes of Open Session
CIFOR, August 9, 2004

Full English Report [177kb]

China by Ms. Zhou Zaizhi

The China study focuses on Guangdong province in southern China, where 61% of the total 17.8 million ha is official forest land, with 92% of it managed by collectives. Heavy logging, war, major political events (Great leap forward and Cultural revolution) and forest fire led to serious forest destruction and degradation. In 1949, forest cover was 3.72 million ha and degraded forest land was 7.11 million ha. Since then with primarily government-led large-scale rehabilitation efforts, forest cover has risen to a stable 10 million ha roughly and degraded forest land was reduced to about 1 million ha. The efforts were meant to stabilize the degraded ecological environment accompanying rapid economic development; and reduce poverty and improve livelihoods of forest dependent people and farmers in mountain and coastal areas. People were mobilized to carry out the efforts. Aerial seeding was a favoured method for remote hilly and mountain areas along with closing off mountains to promote natural regeneration. There was also the development of high-yielding plantations and establishment of forest farms on degraded forest lands for timber production.

Since the 1990s, diversified reforestation systems and institutional arrangements appeared among stakeholders. These included joint management, stock-sharing, lease and contract management. There has been a shift in forestry focus from reforesting barren forestland to consolidating greening achievements, protecting and enhancing the resources to meet the demands of the rapidly growing forest industry. New policies encourage foreign and civil enterprises and individuals to develop commercial forests, with a range of management options and institutional arrangements. Currently, it is difficult to find degraded forestland for lease for commercial forestry in preferred planting districts with good site conditions. At the same time, there is interest in building high-quality forests for environmental purposes in the classified ecological zones by adjusting tree species and forest structure and type.

The review study based on 3 samples in each of the 8 major project categories in Guangdong, reports considerable success in terms of increased forest cover and stocking volume in the earlier programs which can be assessed now. The study in Guangdong does not include case study analysis for environmental and livelihood impacts, and these remain unclear. Key lessons learnt include the need for:

  1. A wide range of funding sources and institutional arrangements for different project types
  2. Removal of high timber tax, transportation and sale constraints
  3. Favorable policy incentives and socialization
  4. Livelihood options and alternative fuel sources to reduce pressures on the regrowing forests. Forest rehabilitation to be part of local socio-economic sustainable development
  5. Good dissemination and demonstration of successful experiences
  6. Targeted management, responsibility and incentive systems for program leaders
  7. Technical training and services to implementers
  8. Species-site matching and scientific planning using available research findings to avoid poor growth, mortality, pests and disease, and forest fire problems
  9. More attention to management of already planted areas



  1. A question was raised regarding community participation in rehabilitation in China, since they were the real actors in the field and their participation was critical for the long-term sustainability of rehabilitation programs. There were policy incentives (institutional arrangements, etc.) in different programs to encourage community involvement and ensure long-term sustainability. Guangdong is increasingly applying more of such incentives, trying to find better mechanisms and iron out the problems. The review study in China does not involve assessment of livelihood impacts of the projects.
  2. Different tenure systems and institutional arrangements – which approaches are more successful? Recent developments: reforestation task bidding systems for city landscape rehabilitation, private investments to develop commercial forests on degraded forestland, and joint management and stock sharing options on forest farms show much promise.
  3. Yes, there are rewards for environmental services as part of reforestation programs. For forests established mainly for environmental purposes, the government provides economic compensation to landowners. Only rich provinces can use this method of compensation.
  4. Aerial seeding has 65% success in China based on forest growth on the ground. Species used are mainly fast growing, exotics such as Acacia and Eucalyptus, along with native pine trees which are suited for the region.

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