China’s Sloping Land Conversion Program in Pingzhang village, Yunnan province: Effective, efficient, sustainable?
Abstract: In the late 1990‟s the Chinese government initiated the Sloping Land Conversion Program. The program is a so-called payments for environmental services (PES) scheme. As such, farmers are the providers of watershed protection through planting trees on their farmland. For providing this environmental service they receive a set of payments. The program has dual policy objectives of ecological restoration and rural development. As no comprehensive study has been conducted on the SLCP‟s current and future economic and social and environmental impacts on a local level, this project intends to answer “To what extent is the SLCP effective, efficient and sustainable in southwest China‟s Pingzhang village?”. This research project fundamentally consists of two distinct elements: theoretical desk study and practical fieldwork, with a five-week-long stay in Pingzhang village during March and April 2010. The collected data was used as input for the three-tier analysis. In sum, this study found that the SLCP in Pingzhang is (i) moderately effective, (ii) inefficient, yet (iii) contributes positively to sustainable livelihoods. In order to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability, a set of recommendations is provided. First of all, it is recommended that actors on the village and town level pay attention to the sophistication of the adopted agroforestry system. Secondly, restrictions on intercropping should be lifted. Thirdly, the central government should consider the Land Administration Law for amendment. The law requires that farmland be cultivated or else a household loses its land rights, which limits opportunities for employment elsewhere and thus limits diversification, rural development and poverty alleviation. Furthermore, it is recommended that local leaders start campaigns to stimulate children to achieve better results at school and change the attitude of parents towards the value of education. Finally, the effectiveness and sustainability of the SLCP would benefit from more space for public participation. One step in the right direction would be to make SLCP participation truly voluntary and engage environmental service providers (i.e. households, farmers) in practical matters such as tree selection. The complete failure of the SLCP in terms of efficiency is due to a lack in additionality, as walnut agroforestry is (likely to be) practiced even without providing payments to farmers. Agroforestry provides great potential for private benefit, providing ample incentive to change behaviour. Rather than implementing a PES scheme, more efficient means to promote agroforestry include (i) awarenessraising regarding the profitability of agroforesty systems, (ii) provision of technical training, (iii) facilitation of market access, (iv) provision of high-quality, (v) free-of-charge seedlings and (vi) access to rural credit.
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