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Household forestry in China gives tenure to millions
The household responsibility system, a program created in the 1980s in China, has been allocating the right to use land to individual farmer households for large periods of time, in some cases as many as 70 years. Policy reforms in the 80s were "oriented to the free market, which strongly influenced forest tenure," and passed on ownership rights to individual households, as opposed to collective ownership.
A recent article from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) forestry publication, Unasylva, highlights the history and status of tenure reform in China. While data concerning the transfer of land to individual owners are limited, some estimate that as much as 69 percent of collective forests were transferred for individual use, and that 31.3 million hectares are now managed by more than 57 million rural households.
Private landowners responded differently in the 1980s when ownership was transferred; fragmentation of forest land and small plots led many farmers to fell their new forests because they were hard to manage and there was a concern about the stability of the policy. Recently, however, the extension of tenure periods has made rural landowners more confident in their future, and "better linkages between forest policies and forest management are expected to improve the efficiency of forest management, rural livelihoods and environmental sustainability."
The article concludes that household forestry in China has led to important successes, but that because China is such a large country, "poor performance of household forests has impacts on forest trade, [the] environment and equitable development." There may be need for further reform as development accelerates and demands increase.
Posted By Alexandra O'Brien at 12:52pm on January 09, 2008
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