Yi Wang, Jürgen Pretzsch:
Social Impacts of the Government Forest Protection Program on Local Households in Terms of Livelihood in Western China


Technische Universität Dresden, Institute of International Forestry and Forest Products, Germany

Forest has been used as one of the important sources for local livelihood in China for generations. The utilisation is especially common in mountainous regions in Western China, where the areas are economically poor, large areas of forests are preserved, and local communities are isolated and solely relying on forests for livelihood. As implementation of the Natural Forest Protection Program (NFPP) since 1998, a large part of forests have been conserved with severe restrictions for commercial use. The impacts of the NFPP on local livelihood are unclear.

Research objectives are (1) to review the local forest-dependent livelihood (i.e. household income derivation, expenditure and labour time distribution) before the NFPP; (2) to observe current livelihood after the NFPP; (3) through comparison to understand impacts of the NFPP on local livelihood; (4) to suggest strategies for a better harmonisation between local livelihood and NFPP implementation.

Research is approached through a case study design. Four villages with a total number of 175 respondents were selected for field surveys where questionnaires, interviews and group discussions were employed. Quantitative and qualitative social research methods were used for data collection and analysis.

Research shows that the NFPP has directly impacted local household income and work structures, led households shifting from sole dependence on forests to new and better paying household income sources, such as migration work in towns or cities for alternative livelihood; the contribution of forestry incomes became less important to total household income and other income sources provided more lucrative. The NFPP negatively impacted households with increased costs for cooking and heating, while it positively affected households by freeing up time once used to collect fuel wood, allowing for better paying jobs that more than compensate for additional energy costs. The NFPP has also resulted in redistribution of household labour time, with less time spending on forest related activities and more freed up time on migration work. Attribution gap between the NFPP impacts and other possible influencing factors are discussed. Recommendations refer to a better implementation of NFPP to mitigate the negative impacts and for a sustainable forest management in different regional contexts.

Keywords: Forest protection program, livelihood, social impact assessment


Contact Address: Yi Wang, Technische Universität Dresden, Institute of International Forestry and Forest ProductsPienner Straße 7 01737 Tharandt, 01737 Dresden, Germany, e-mail: shellywy@gmail.com
Andreas Deininger, October 2010