International Conference on Forest Tenure Reform

11/21/2012 - 11/23/2012



Location Name:
Hangzhou Tianyuan Hotel

Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province


Hosted by the State Forest Administration, China Forest Tenure Project (supported by UN-FAO and EU), Rights and Resources Initiative and the Peking University.


It is now widely recognized that securing tenure for the world’s rural and forest people is essential for alleviating poverty and achieving broader social and economic development goals, as well as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. This more recent recognition at the global level has been preceded with long-standing demands for secure land rights by local people and government recognition in many countries. Indeed since 1992 this recognition has led to a wide range of policy and institutional reform across the globe in recent years, resulting in local control of forest resources to the extent of 31 percent of forest area in developing countries.   

Among the countries that have undertaken forest tenure reforms in recent decades, China’s tenure reforms are interesting to the world for two reasons. First, it is clearly the largest, when measured by numbers of people directly affected. As the world’s most populous and second largest economy, what China does with its forests and forest tenure has dramatic implications for not only itself, but the rest of the world. The fate of China’s forests and its own use of wood products have major implications for its economic development, food security, carbon emissions and sustainable resource management. China has become the world’s largest processor of timber and non-timber forest products and its policies have thus become central to the development of forest governance mechanisms such as REDD and FLEGT.   

And secondly, China has lessons and experiences valuable for other countries. Beginning in the early 1980s, China has implemented vast forest and land reforms that have led to major advances in rural tenure security, incomes and tree planting.  In this context, China’s reforms provide an important case study with useful implications for global attempts to reduce forest emissions and decrease poverty and conflict in forest areas. Since 2003, a new phase of reform has focused on the devolution of land use rights and forest ownership in collective forest areas to inpidual households, resulting in increases in household incomes and rural livelihoods coupled with successful reforestation and social equity in forest areas, directly affecting 300 million people and increasing China’s forest area by 8%. These reforms offer important lessons for other developing countries that have recently begun to address unclear forest tenure; they have done so with the dominant trend towards legally recognizing and strengthening the management, access and ownership rights of indigenous peoples and other forest communities and households.   

Yet challenges still remain in the full realization of property rights for rural and forest peoples, and their benefit from their forests. While forest tenure reform is evolving differently among different provinces in China, there is a general need to improve the participation of households in the collective decision-making processes, obtain free, prior and informed consent of communities before their land rights are altered and establish adequate judicial processes and legal options for grievance redress. It has also become urgent to establish the legal and regulatory framework governing land acquisitions, contracts between households and larger associations of farmers, to allow households to access credit markets and increase production and incomes.  As collective and household rights are clarified, local owners have increasingly come to challenge the established practices of policy edicts and regulatory takings to control land use, and public programs designed to reimburse forest owners for income lost due to regulations and zoning. There is still inadequate information regarding the effect of these reforms on the ethnic peoples and women who traditionally own and manage their forests collectively. Therefore there is a high risk that if these issues are left unaddressed, more powerful interests will benefit disproportionally over households and collectives, thus undermining progress to date and on rural development and peace in China.   

During the past three years, the State Forest Administration, with support from FAO, has been implementing a project to strengthen the collective forest tenure reform in six southern provinces of China. The experiences generated on forest farmer cooperatives, forest trade centres and participatory approaches to forest management by communities and forest producer organizations will provide valuable inputs to the development of new policies to enhance forest governance and participatory forest management. In parallel, Peking University and Landesa, with support from Rights and Resources Initiative, have been analysing the impacts of collective and State forest reforms on household and community incomes, rural livelihoods, and Small and Medium Enterprises. The research has also focused on the legal dimensions of forest tenure reforms, forest farmers’ compensation and due process. Research by these organizations along with the monitoring work undertaken by Chinese government institutions provide a rich data base to review the progress of forest tenure reform in China.   

The problems and challenges encountered in China’s forest tenure reform are not unique. Some aspects of the problem have been resolved in countries where reforms took place several decades earlier while a number of developing countries continue to seek answers to some of the same problems. This conference will review  the forest tenure reforms to date in China and assess progress and challenges to achieve goals, and identify options for the next generation of policy reforms in China and elsewhere. Government representatives, civil society leaders and international experts and academics from countries across the globe where tenure reform is underway, and those where it has been demonstrably successful, will gather in China to share knowledge, lessons, and experiences to identify strategic mechanisms and processes for future laws and policies. 


  • Government, research and civil society experts will assess progress and share relevant research on  forest tenure reforms in China;  
  • International resource persons will share experiences from around the globe on the development and implementation of forest tenure policies, laws and regulations; and        
  • China will identify key pathways for deepening collective forest reforms including possible cooperative agreements with other countries.  

Expected Outcomes

1.       Promote mutual learning between China and other countries on forest reforms 

2.       Mobilize greater awareness of and efforts on issues of deepening collective forest reforms in China and other countries, including: 
a.  Regulating forest tenure transfer, strengthening supervision, and ensuring forest farmers’ legal rights and benefits 
b.  Accessing financial services, input systems and subsidies to develop capacity for emergence of professional cooperatives and enterprises 
c.   Ensuring Free, Prior and Informed Consent in the collective decision-making  and state acquisition of land 
d.  Ensuring equal treatment of marginalized groups, women and ethnic minorities in tenure reform

3.       Consolidate a new consensus and collective vision for deepening collective forest reforms; and

4.       Chinese government officials will put forth policy recommendations to address issues for deepening collective forest reforms.



Opening Remarks

Session 1: Collective Forest Tenure Reforms - Review and Assessment

Session 2: Experiences from Provinces and Other Countries on Supporting Tenure Reform and Local Community Forestry

Session 3: Legal Dimensions of Collective and Household Property Rights

Session 4: Economic and Livelihood Dimensions of Forest Tenure Reforms

Session 5: The Role of Credit, Insurance, Input Systems and Subsidies in Deepening Forest Tenure Reform

Session 6: Strengthening the Role of Local Cooperatives and Associations in Deepening Reforms and Enabling Development


Speakers, Chairs and Discussants:


  • Apsara Chapagain, FECOFUN, Nepal
  • Dai Guangcui, Research Center for Economy and Development, SFA, China
  • Hou Ling, Department of Forest Policy and Legislation, SFA, China
  • Li Ping, Landesa-RDI, China
  • Li Lanying, Zhejiang A&F University, China
  • Lin Shaoshan, Forestry Department of Fujian Province, China
  • Liu Yongfan, Department of Forest Policy and Legislation, SFA, China
  • Madhu Sarin, RRI Fellow, India
  • Myrna Safitri, Epistema Institute, Indonesia
  • Qi Hong, Department of Forestry Policy and Legislation, SFA, China
  • Silavanh Sawathvong, Department of Forestry, Lao PDR
  • Tint Lwin Thaung, RECOFTC, Thailand
  • Wang Jianman, The People’s Government of Zhejiang Province, China
  • Wang Quandian, South China Agriculture University, China
  • Wen Yali, Beijing Forestry University, China
  • Wu Xiaosong, Department of Rural Economy, National Development and Reform Commission of China
  • Xu Jintao, Peking University, China
  • Yang Baijin,  Department of Rural Forestry Reform and Development, SFA, China
  • Zhang Jianlong, Vice-Minister, SFA, China
  • Zhang Hongxiao, Nanjiang Forestry University, China
  • Zhang Lei, SFA, China
  • Zuo Ting, China Agricultural University / FAO, China


  • Samuel Nguiffo, CED, Cameroon
  • Robinson Djeukam, Green Development Advocates, Cameroon
  • Othello Brandy, Liberia Land Commission
  • Silas Siakor, SDI, Liberia

OECD Countries:

  • Margareta Nilsson, Sida, Sweden
  • Bob Harrington, Montana State Dept of Natural Resources and Conservation, US

International Organizations:

  • Andy White, RRI
  • Arvind Khare, RRI
  • Don Roberts, CIBC
  • Eva Muller, FAO
  • Jiang Chungqian, FAO
  • Klaus Deininger, World Bank
  • Peter de Marsh, International Family Forestry Alliance
  • Patrice Talla, FAO
  • Phil Cottle, ForestRe
  • Sally Collins, MegaFlorestais
  • Ma Qiang, FAO
  • Xie Yi, FAO