Livelihoods and Landscapes programme conducts socioeconomic assessments for forest restoration and community development in Huayuan Village.
Huayuan Village is situated in the buffer zone of the Wulingshan National Nature Reserve, the Huayuan landscape is diverse and scenically stunning. The Great Wall of China is also visible from the village, winding along the mountains just a few kilometers away. This harsh semi-arid environment is marked by thousands of years of utilization. The surrounding ecosystems are depleted. Huayuan’s natural forests have long disappeared and the newly established afforested areas cannot fill the gap. The watersheds have lost their natural characteristics and are still under threat from major infrastructure projects. In short, the core problem is the continuing degradation of the rural landscape and the inadequate benefits local people are able to derive from it.
To tackle these issues a thorough situation analysis required. A pilot project was initiated under the IUCN Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy (LLS) programme. As a first step, the Beijing Forestry Society commissioned Deng Weijie, Sichuan University to conduct a socioeconomic assessment of the village of Huayuan. The assessment included semi-structured interviews, focus group, forestry calendars and resource mapping.
Of the Huayuan Village’s 796.5 hectares, 122.2 hectares is farmland, and forest makes up about 60 percent of the land. The village has a total population of 657 people, living in 198 households, and remains relatively poor – the per capita annual net income is around RMB 3,000 (US $ 397).
In addition to providing ecological services such as protection from erosion, the forest is a source of employment for village forest wardens, plant and animal products including herbs, medicines, mushrooms and wild boar, and attracts a growing number of tourists. Each household also consumes 4000-5000 kg of firewood each year.
Huayuan’s close proximity to Beijing is also significant. As well as playing a role in the conservation of forest resources that impact on the environmental well-being of the capital, the project site is accessible to decision-makers and stakeholders, facilitating the demonstration of forest landscape restoration and community development activities.
The socioeconomic assessment also revealed that there were potentials for improving livelihoods from non-timber forest related products, such as mushroom collection; forest vegetables and Tourism development
The Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy (LLS) will address these challenges by working to restore the rural landscape in a win-win situation for people and the environment. It will also complement and build on the experiences of projects such as the Sino-German Ecological Landscape Restoration and Conservation Project. The continued cooperation will help provide policy and technical support, launch the tending and thinning of the forest, and to integrate management of the forest including plantation and breeding for diversifying the income generation.
LLS recognizes the need to cooperate with investors who are developing the tourism in Huayuan village so that local products especially the forest products could be well marketed locally by setting up the strategic cooperation relationship between villagers and investors. And most importantly to Strengthening the capacity of local project partners in forest landscape restoration concepts and approaches and encouraging the Chinese Government to commit to forest landscape restoration principles.