Governing forest restoration: Local case studies of sloping land conversion program in Southwest China

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Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038Contents lists available at ScienceDirectForest Policy and Economicsj ourna l homepage: www.e lsev ie r .com/ locate / fo rpo lGoverning forest restoration: Local case studies of sloping landconversion program in Southwest ChinaJun He College of Economics and Management, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming 650201, ChinaWorld Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF China & East Asia Node, Heilongtan, Kunming 650204, China College of Economics and Management, Yunnan Ag650201, China. Tel.: +86 871 5223014; fax: +86 871 522E-mail address: h.jun@cgiar.org.1 SLCP is also known as Grain for Green. Under thefarmers with 2250 kg and 1500 kg of grain per ha of conupper reaches of theYangtze andYellowRiver Basins respesubsidies of about 46 USD/ha/year for miscellaneous expabout 115 USD/ha for seeds or seedlings are also providecontinue for eight years for ecological forest plantation aspecies. In 2004 the grains subsidy was replaced by an eqhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2014.05.0041389-9341/ 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.a b s t r a c ta r t i c l e i n f oArticle history:Received 17 September 2013Received in revised form 4 February 2014Accepted 13 May 2014Available online 14 June 2014Keywords:Forest restorationDecentralizationAccountabilityPayment for environmental serviceLand use changeChinaThe Chinese government is currently implementing the world's largest forest restoration program, the SlopingLandConversion Program(SLCP),which uses public payments to convertmarginal cropland in upperwatershedsinto forests, engaging millions of mountain-dwelling households. Apart from providing financial incentives, thestate has also promoted local autonomy and participation in the program. This promotion represents a bigshift in forest policy that grants more power to local communities and increases the involvement of local gover-nance in decision-making. Whether the SLCP has been effectively implemented, the extent of its ecological andsocioeconomic outcomes and how its performance can be improved are still unclear in the absence of adequatebiophysical and socioeconomic data. To gain a holistic understanding of the SLCP's implementation and impacts,this research examines the interplay between the governance of the policy's implementation and local variationsleading to the various ecological and socioeconomic outcomes observed, based on a comparative case study intwo communities. It provides a novel explanation for why the SLCP, generally implemented via a top-downapproach, produces better positive outcomes in one place than in the other, and argues for the significance oflocal institutions in shaping the policy's outcomes. This paper recommends institutional reform across thecountry's socio-ecological system, with the national policy-maker considering local dynamics in policy formula-tion and implementation and developing mechanisms of accountability and local institutions. 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.1. IntroductionIn the past two decades the Chinese government has launched a se-ries of ecological restoration programs to improve degraded ecosystemfunctions and services and the livelihoods of environmental-serviceproviders, most of whom live in remote areas (Li, 2004; Yin, 2009).Among these programs, the Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP)is the largest and highest-funded forest restoration program, usingpublic payments to convert marginal cropland into forest and involvingmillions of mountain-dwelling households as core agents of its imple-mentation (Xu et al., 2004; Bennett, 2008).1 From when the programbegan in 1999 to 2008, the SLCP has spread across 25 provinces, andthe state has accumulatively invested about 23.23 billion USD inricultural University, Kunming3377.program, the government paysverted cropland per year in thectively. In addition, annual cashenses and a one-off subsidy ofd. The grain and cash subsidiesnd five years for economic treeuivalent cash payment.converting over 8 million ha of cropland into forestland,with thepartic-ipation of 26,840,778 households (State Forestry Administration, SFA,2010).The SLCP program is a milestone in Chinese forest policy, which hasshifted from a command-and-control approach towards applyingfinan-cial instruments that provide monetary incentives to farmers for forestrestoration. More innovatively, the program intends to improve localvolunteerism and autonomy in the policy's implementation (StateForestry Administration, SFA, 2002; Bennett, 2008). This has attractedinternational interest and research. Apart from studies focusing on thetop-down approach of the program's policy formulation and implemen-tation (Xu et al., 2004; Bennett, 2008; Yin et al., 2013), the literatureconcentrates on the socioeconomic impacts of the program and partic-ularly on farmers' economic strategies and options after the program(Chen et al., 2009;Ma et al., 2009) and its implications for rural incomesand inequality (Uchida et al., 2007; Li et al., 2011). While other studiesexplore its local impact from a more comprehensive perspective(Weyerhaeuser et al., 2005; Xu et al., 2006), they do not adequately pro-vide a combination of biophysical and socioeconomic evidence for aholistic understanding of the policy's implementation and impacts.Whether the SLCP has been implemented effectively, the extent of itsecological and socioeconomic outcomes, and how its performance canbe improved are still not clear. In particular, there is an urgent needhttp://crossmark.crossref.org/dialog/?doi=10.1016/j.forpol.2014.05.004&domain=pdfhttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2014.05.004mailto:h.jun@cgiar.orghttp://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forpol.2014.05.004http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/138993412 The administrative structure in China is as follows: center, province, prefecture, coun-ty, township, and administrative village. The administrative village is the lowest adminis-trative body and is composed of several natural villages (naturally-settled hamlets).3 The agrarian reform inChina startedwith the establishment of theHousehold Respon-sibility System in the agriculture sector, which distributed collective agricultural land toindividual household in a contract based on use rights for up to 30 years. Later a similarapproach was applied in forest sector (Liu, 2001).31J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038for in-depth assessment of how governance of the policy implementa-tion interplayingwith local variations leads to the various observed eco-logical and socioeconomic outcomes.Globally, there is a growing body of studies of forest restoration gov-ernance documenting the significance of the interaction of local factorswith forest restoration policy, and the varying outcomes. For example,Buchy and Hoverman (2000) argue that requiring public participationin forest restoration program has far-reaching consequences for boththe distribution of power between the actors and policy outcomes.The gap between the intention of forest restoration policy and its out-comes occurs where there is an insufficient power transfer to the localauthority (Clement and Amezaga, 2009). Research therefore calls forbetter understanding of existing local practice and institutions thatwill help in identifying and implementing restoration initiatives and as-sure sustainable outcomes and sound governance (Van Oosten, 2013).While most of the existing literature documents how top-down policyimplementation may limit such programs' success, few studies haveexamined the extent to which these top-down policies have actuallycontributed to reforestation.In this paper I go a step further to examinehow local variations affectthe implementation of forest restoration policy and its outcomes, takingthe SLCP as an example. The paper is intended as additional source of lit-erature on China's ecological restoration programand contributes to theglobal debate on forest restoration governance. Applying a conceptualframework of decentralization analysis, it uses an in-depth case studyfrom two villages in Southwest China to examine how the policy's im-plementation interacted with local institutions, leading to a complexcourse of decision-making and actions to eventually produce differentpolicy outcomes in each village. With a combination of quantified eco-logical and socioeconomic outcomes and qualitative analysis of local in-stitutions, this paper provides new insights into why the SLCP programleads to positive outcomes in some places but fails to do so in others, al-though it is generally implemented via a top-down approach. It arguesthat improved understanding of the governance mechanism and itsoutcomes would contribute to better formulation and implementationof forest restoration policy in China and even worldwide.2. A decentralization lens for the analysis of forest restorationgovernanceDecentralization usually refers to power transfer from centralauthority to lower levels in political-administrative and territorialhierarchy (Crook andManor, 1998). In this paper, the analytical frame-work for forest restoration governance, based on notions of Agrawal andRibot (1999) and Ribot et al. (2006) that form the conceptualizationof power, actors and accountability, is used as a critical dimension ofanalysis. Without an understanding of the power of various actors, thedomains in which they exercise their power, and to whom and howthey are accountable, it is impossible to know the extent to whichmeaningful decentralization has taken place (Crook and Manor, 1998;Agrawal and Ribot, 1999; Ribot and Larson, 2005). In theory this ap-proach holds the notion that effective decentralization can only takeplace when sufficient decision-making power is transferred to the low-est level of local government which is downwardly accountable to thelocal population and believes that direct election can achieve democrat-ic decentralization with positive environmental and social outcomes(Ribot, 1999; Ribot and Larson, 2005).In practice, the effectiveness of decentralization in public service andpromoting local democracy is varied; successful decentralization lead-ing to the intended outcomes has rarely been achieved (Ribot et al.,2006; Larson and Soto, 2008). Most commonly, researchers report thatdecentralization is limited by: 1) insufficient power transfer, with cen-tral governments devolving obligation powers, rather than meaningfulpower with adequate resources, to local authorities (Larson, 2003; Xuand Ribot, 2004); 2) lack of downward accountability, with central gov-ernments strategically choosing local institutions that are upwardlyaccountable and less democratized so they can most easily control thepower transfer (Ribot, 1999; Ribot and Larson, 2005); and 3) localelite capture, preventing the participation of all members of society indecision-making (Saito-Jensen et al., 2010).This research uses an empirical approach to consider forest restora-tion governance through the lens of the decentralization analysisframework. Taking the SLCP as example, it compares the governanceprocess and its environmental and socioeconomic outcomes in two vil-lages. The SLCP, as the largest forest restoration program among theworld, emerged in a broad context of decentralization reform throughwhich the Chinese government intends to further promote forest de-centralization by improving local volunteerism and autonomy in theimplementation of the policy (SFA, 2002; Bennett, 2008). However,the implementation and outcomes of the policy vary. The lens of decen-tralization analysis is thus a critical analytical tool for understanding thedifferent power transfer dynamics and actors' reactions which lead tothe different outcomes observed.To obtain a holistic perspective of governance, the researchwas con-ducted at multiple levels exploring decision-making at the county,township and village levels from the local perspective.2 The researchtracks the decision-making power in the SLCP that has been transferredto different levels of the administrative body. It also examines to whomthe authority is accountable after receiving this power. The inclusion ofaccountability in this analytical framework allows the examination ofthe relations between different levels of decision-making bodies tounderstand how stakeholder concerns are represented in governanceprocesses (Agrawal and Ribot, 1999). Empirically, it considers 1) thepowers (e.g. land zoning, tree species selection) and accompanyingresources (e.g. SLCP quotas) that have actually been transferred tolower-level actors to determine whether an autonomous decision-making domain exists to address issues of local significance; 2) thelocal-level entities receiving powers and their relation to the population,to understand the extent to which these are both representative of anddownwardly accountable to local people (Agrawal and Ribot, 1999).This research is contextualized in Chinese characteristics in forestmanagement and rural politics, where decentralization reform in foresthas been carried out for several years (Liu, 2001; Xu and Ribot, 2004).Despite forest usufruct having been allocated to households via the Re-sponsibility Contracting System in the late 1980s,3 unstable policy andpolicy implementation have made forest access and ownership muchmore insecure for most households (Yeh, 2000; Xu and Ribot, 2004).This ambiguity of property rights in post-socialist China has led to vari-ous ecological and social outcomes (Ho, 2001). Recently, deeper decen-tralization reform to build grassroots democratization is aiming toenable village administration organizations to control their own re-sources for sustainable use, with implications for villagers' longer-term livelihoods (He, 2012). Villagers have a new outlet for their con-cerns in the form of the popularly-elected Village Committees, which,in principle, are more accountable to villagers than to higher levels ofgovernment. The nexus of these two forces large-scale government in-terventions on the one hand and local democracy on the other formsthe context of this research.3. Research site and methods3.1. Study areaThe case study was carried out in Yunnan Province in SouthwestChina (see Fig. 1). Yunnan is of great importance in Southwest ChinaFig. 1. The location of the study sites.32 J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038and even globally, due to its upland agriculture and relatively well-preserved rare and valuable forest resources (Myers et al., 2000). InYunnan, an ethnic minority area, policy changes often undermine thetraditional institutional management of natural resources on whichthe livelihoods of most communities depend (e.g. Harkness, 1998;Sturgeon, 2005). Currently, the land use pattern in upland farming onTable 1Biophysical and socioeconomics characteristics of the two study villages.Study site Pingzhang VillageGeographyArea (km2) 14.79Elevation 15352597Annual rainfall (mm) 1037.3SocioeconomicsSubunit 5 natural villagesEthnicity Yi and BaiTotal households (2010) 410Total population (2010) 1680Net income per capita 360 USD (2010)ForestryDominant forest vegetation Pine (Pinus Armandii, Pinus yunnanesis), alder (Alunus nepaleTree plantation Walnut (Juglans sigillata), alder (Alnus nepalensis), pear (PyrForest management Individual and communal useSource: adopted from He, 2012 and He et al., 2014.land of low productivity requires local communities to seek alternativeland use strategies to get out of poverty and improve the degradedenvironment (Weyerhaeuser et al., 2005; He et al., 2009).Both of the studied villages are typical upland communities inYunnan Province. Table 1 shows the key characteristics of the twovillages, which have experienced a dramatic social and economicXinqi Village53.19169225461428.55 natural villagesHan Chinese10264276561 USD (2010)nsis). Fir (Taiwania flousiana, Tsuga dumosa),pine (Pinus Armandii, Pinus yunnanesis), alder (Alnus nepalensis)us pyrifolia) Fir (Taiwania flousiana), alder (Alnus spp.) Camelia (Camellia reticulata),Walnut (Juglans sigillata)Collective forest farmTable 2SLCP in Pingzhang and Xinqi.Village Year Area (ha) No. of households involved Tree speciesPingzhang 2002/2003 48.73 229 Pear (Pyrus pyrfolia)2005 38.12 106 Walnut (Juglans sigillata)Xinqi 2002 65.59 239 All mixed forest with Alnus nepalensis, Betula alnoides,Taiwania flousiana, and Tsuga dumosa2003 116.49 3762005 42.93 230Source: Field survey 2011.4 As defined by Di Gregorio and Jansen (2000), open canopy forest refers to 20%60%tree coverage between, while closed canopy forest is over 60% coverage.5 The harvest quota policy was initiated in 1985 in line with the first Forest Law, andwas approved by National Council for full implementation in 1987 (He, 2012).33J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038transformation with the macro institutional and economic change ofthe last two decades. Their rapid economic growth has enabled thelocal population, who have traditionally depended on forest and uplandfarming, to change their livelihood strategies to incorporate the marketeconomy in managing their mosaic landscape. The implementation ofthe SLCP in particular helped the livelihood transitions of the populationof thousands of upland villages in China. Pingzhang and Xinqi villagesimplemented two to three rounds of the SLCP with a significant treeplantation and the extensive involvement of the local population from2002 to 2005 (see Table 2). This provides an interesting backgroundto this case study of the implementation of SLCP and its environmentaland socioeconomic outcomes.3.2. MethodsThe data collection was carried out from August 2010 to December2011. The research is designed as an interdisciplinary study in whichboth qualitative and quantitative data were collected using a widerange of techniques. The qualitative data was collected from interviewsand focus group discussion as primary data and from village records,government and policy documents and the literature as key secondarydata. Quantitative data was generated from spatial data on land usechange and household survey data as the primary dataset. Moreover,the author had worked in the Baoshan for agroforestry developmentsince 2005 as part of his PhD study, which helped him to understandthe dynamics of the research sites and build relationships with thelocal communities and officials.To gather qualitative data on local institutions, 38 interviews werecarried with key informants village leaders, women, elders, localtownship leaders and local forest officials at county and prefecturallevel to obtain an in-depth understanding of land use change, the in-stitutional arrangement of forest management and the SLCP's imple-mentation processes. Complementary to the key informant interviews,six focus groups with four to five people in each were organized togain further insight into local perspectives of the SLCP's implementationand its decision-making, including focus groups of village leaders,village elders, women's groups and local forest officials. The analysis ofthe qualitative data was linked to the research framework to under-stand local decision-making, and the descriptive information waspresented qualitatively, especially regarding institutional arrange-ments, village history, local property and institutional practice.A questionnaire survey was carried out using the spatially-stratifiedopportunistic sampling strategy to select approximately 10% of thehouseholds in each subunit (natural village) in both villages, as sug-gested by Bryman (2001). The survey targeted the household head asthe person seen as knowing themost about his/her household, and cov-ered a range ofmale and female farmers of different ages and education-al backgrounds (see Table 3). The questionnaire was designed to elicitthree main categories of information at the household level: a) house-hold information; b) land use statutes and cropping systems, includingthe SLCP; c) land use decisions and participation related to the SLCP. Thesurvey data was analyzed in SPSS 9.0 to gain descriptive statistics in-cluding the percentages, means and frequencies of household profiles,economic statutes and land use decisions, while chi-square analysiswas applied to test significant levels of difference in a socioeconomicassessment of SLCP outcomes.Changes in land use were assessed using remote sensing data.Landsat ETM+ (30 m resolution, 13 January 2002) and Rapid Eye (5m resolution, 24 and 30 December 2010) were selected to classifyland use in two periods; before and after the introduction of the SLCP.Ground truthing was conducted to improve the accuracy of the landuse classification. The definition of natural vegetation and classificationconcepts follows the Land Cover Classification System (Di Gregorio andJansen, 2000), and forest coverwas calculated by summed up open can-opy and closed canopy forest.4 The satellite images were manuallyinterpreted to generate comparable land use/cover data across time.The spatial data analysis was performed by overlaying different attri-butes in AcrGIS to understand the ecological outcome of the SLCP interm of land use change.Finally, the qualitative data was incorporated into the quantitativeinformation. The latter provided quantified evidence of the qualitativestatements and was useful for cross-checking information. This combi-nation of quantitative and qualitative approaches helped to generate awide range of robust data for the analysis of the governance of forestrestoration and its environmental and socioeconomic implications.4. Results4.1. Dynamics of local institutions in forest managementThis section examines the local institutional dynamics in forestman-agement in the two villages. It tracks the historical path of institutionaldevelopment and its interplay with national policies, including foresttenure reform and the SLCP.4.1.1. Pingzhang villagePingzhang is a typical upland villagewhich has historicallymanagedits forest via the customary practices of the Yi ethnic group.While the Yipeople have a complex forest classification system (Liu et al., 2012), inPingzhang they traditionally classify their forest into only three catego-ries: firewood forest, grazing and timber forest, and protected sacredforest. Their customary forest management was affected by a resettle-ment program in the late 1960swhich introduced a group of Bai peoplewho had been resettled due to the construction of a water reservoir. Inits resettlement program the government also reallocated forest to en-sure access for the Bai people. The Bai people do not practice sacred for-est management as the Yi do, and furthermore state discourse treatssacred forest as superstitious and erosive of local forest management(cf. Sturgeon, 2005).In 1982, forest tenure reform attempted to allocate collective forest-land to individual households by establishing their responsibility for theforestwith the aimof encouraging farmers to plant trees and protect theforest. However, unclear ownership and tenure arrangements led to theunexpected overharvesting of forest, and three years later the Chinesegovernment launched a logging quota system to control the rate ofdeforestation (He, 2012).5 In Pingzhang only a third of forest wasredistributed, as most people wanted to keep the collective forest forTable 3Characteristics of respondents in questionnaire survey.Variable Gender Age (years) Education (years)Male (%) Female (%) Mean (S.D.) Range Mean (S.D.) RangePingzhang (n = 43) 30 (69.76) 13 (30.24) 42.88 (9.79) 2965 5.23 (3.30) 012Xingqi (n = 60) 44 (73.33) 16 (26.67) 50.62 (11.03) 2676 6.53 (2.78) 015Source: Field survey 2011.34 J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038communal use. The government's efforts to redistribute forest ceasedwith the launch of the restricted quota system, leaving the first foresttenure reform of the 1980s incomplete.In 2002 the SLCP was introduced in Pingzhang with the extensiveplantation of pear trees, an exotic species, aiming to generate both envi-ronmental and economic benefits. However, the species is unsuited tolocal conditions and grew poorly. Moreover, the SLCP's prohibition ofintercropping with annual crops discouraged farmers' investment inthe management of plots under the policy, with violent conflict occur-ring when the government attempted to remove almost-mature cornthat had been intercropped with the pear trees. In 2004, a survey con-ducted by the village head and township forest station showed a surviv-al rate of only about 50% of the pear trees, which was much lower thanthe national standard for continuously providing subsidy. The countyforest bureau had to provide another round of free seedlings to replacethe dead pear trees. The county forest department allocated anotherround of SLCP to Pingzhang, in 2005, learning from the experiencewith the exotic species and this time selecting indigenous walnuttrees. According to most interviewees, however, the performance ofthe walnut trees was also poor, as its cultivation requires considerableinvestment inmany techniques and inputs including grafting, fertilizingand pruning to achieve good production. Support and training in thesetechniques are not included in the SLCP.Administratively, although the villagers of Pingzhang started to di-rectly elect their preferred village head following theOrganic Lawof Vil-lage Committees in 2000,6 the village's Party Secretary, appointed bythe township government, still held the decision-making power. In2007, to improve meaningful local democratization through villageelections, a reform in Yunnan to automatically enable the elected villagehead to become Party Secretary as long as he/she is a Party member.This aimed to transfer more decision-making power to farmers and vil-lage committees and create greater village autonomy. Thus Pingzhanghas had a real locally-elected village head only since 2006. However,the current village head explained the challenges to his administration:We are now facing great difficulties: we are lacking social cohesionbetween two ethnic groups; farmers do not have confidence and haveno say in the SLCP, and the government continues to push the program.(25 September 2011, Pingzhang)4.1.2. Xinqi villageThe Han Chinese have practiced collective forest management inXinqi since 1962, when the first collective forest farm was created torestore degraded forestland. This grew to 17 collective forest farmswith a total area of 1667 ha and a wide variety of species, whichthe villagers still manage. The tenure system in Xinqi is dynamic.Formal forest redistribution started in 1982 with the Forest TenureReform policy, which allocated collective forest to individual house-holds. However, overharvesting of timber after the forest redistributionresulted in serious deforestation and conflict; in 1985 the villagers6 Although the New Village Organic Law was passed in 1998, it was implemented inYunnan Province in 2000 (see He, 2012).reached a common agreement to return the individual forest to collec-tive management. This village's self-initiated recollectivization hassignificantly contributed to forest regeneration and conservation.In 1997, the village locally initiated the reallocation of forest, whichwas delineated and given to different collective forest farms, whichtook responsibility for its management and harvest. The distribution ofbenefits from the harvest was decided among the villagers. They wereeither distributed to individuals as money or invested in public goods.Over the years, the village has used the profits from forest for infrastruc-ture and social development, including a school, a clinic building androads, as well as social insurance for all villagers. The self-governanceof forest management has made a strong contribution to afforestation:Xinqi has over 65% forest coverage, of which the plantation accountsfor 80%, as stated by the village head. Good forest management contrib-utes to income generation from the timber harvest, which account for85% of village revenues.As for SLCP, Xinqi has added institutional innovation to its imple-mentation. To encourage local farmers to participate, the village com-mittee formulated a plan for collective SLCP action, approved by allthe villagers, in which the village committee took on the responsibilityand labor costs for the tree plantation, replanting, pruning, fire and pestcontrol and allmanagement tasks, and all the compensationwas paid tofarmers participating in the SLCP. When the forest is ready to harvestthe farmers will receive 70% of the profits and 30% will go to the villagecommittee for use for public goods. This strategy was welcomed byboth non-participating and participating households, because it allowsparticipating households to just sit and wait for the money and non-participating households also benefit from the program, as expressed byall interviewed farmers.Administratively, Xinqi has separated responsibility for forest man-agement from village administration since the first forest farm wasestablished in the 1960s. Although village elections were introducedin 2000, Xinqi has had an elected head of collective forest farms sincethe 1980s. The initiative to take action towards grassroots democratiza-tion has balanced the power of the village committee, pushing it intodownward accountability to farmers as the collective forest farms con-trol considerable resources. The village's successful forest management,led by the collective forest farms, has attracted government investmentin the forest, including SLCP implementation in 2002, 2003 and 2005,and local government programs of walnut and camellia plantation in2009 and 2010 respectively. These programswere implemented follow-ing an extensive consultative process led by the village committee andlocal government. As one of the key informant stated:[the heads of] the collective forest farms and the village committeerepresent us not only in managing our forest, but also in negotiatingwith local government to obtain more forest investment and let [theofficials] understand our needs in SLCP. (14 April, 2011, Xinqi)4.2. Local participation and decision-making in the SLCPTaking a quantitative approach, this section examines local decision-making in SLCP from two aspects: 1) local participation in SLCP, and 2)the local dynamics of decision-making. It aims to provide anTable 4Farmers volunteering for SLCP.Measure of volunteerism Pingzhang (%) Xinqi (%)YES NO YES NOQuestions to SLCP participants N = 34 N = 48Did you enjoy participating in the SLCP? 88.2 11.8 97.9 2.1Could you withdraw if you did not want to participate? 38.2 61.8 89.6 10.4Did you have autonomy to select tree species for planting? 38.2 61.8 39.6 60.4Did you have autonomy to decide where to convert? 26.5 73.5 22.9 77.1Did you have autonomy to decide how much area to convert? 23.5 76.5 16.7 83.3Did you participate in the land measurement? 64.7 35.3 87.5 12.5Did officials consult you about your willingness to participate in the SLCP? 44.1 55.9 45.8 54.2Did you participate in any planning meetings before the program was implemented? 47 52.9 45.8 54.2Question to non-participants N = 9 N = 12If you had wanted to participate, could you have done so? 11.1 88.9 0 12Source: Field survey 2011.35J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038understanding of how different local institutions in both villages canlead to local dynamics in SLCP implementation.4.2.1. Local participation in SLCPTable 4 quantifies local participation in Pingzhang and Xinqi basedon data from the village surveys. It is clear that the villagers had verylittle autonomy and participation in SLCP decision-making in both vil-lages, even though the farmers were keen to enroll on the program.More than 70% of households in both villages ticked no autonomyregarding decisions about the location and the area of land to be con-verted, and 60% ticked no autonomy regarding the selection of treespecies to be planted. These three types of decision-making power areheld by higher government administrators, leaving little space forlocal participation.Moreover, only about 45% of households in both villages wereconsulted about their willingness to participate in the program, al-though the policy highlights the importance of local volunteerism. Inpractice this consultation is commonly carried out at a village meeting.The survey found that almost the same percentage of households partic-ipated in the planning meetings in Pingzhang (47%) and Xinqi (45.8%).Fig. 2. Farmers' perceptions of influentiThe planning meeting in fact served as an information distributionmeeting where the village head announced the planned strategy, howmuch land would be used for the SLCP, and where, and what specieswere to be planted, and asked for the villagers' informed consent.Following this, more villagers (64.7% in Pingzhang and 87.5% in Xinqi)participated in the land measurement to determine the actual areadesignated for SLCP and how much compensation they would be paid.Villagers whose land was not in the targeted area would not be in-volved in the SLCP. How much each household participated dependedgreatly on the geographical location of their land and its delineationby a higher administrative body. The element of volunteerism wasthus reduced to villagers giving their informed consent and the pro-cess of gaining such consent is compulsory.There was a difference between the two villages in the matter ofwithdrawal from the program: 61.8% of participating households inPingzhang and only 10.4% in Xinqi said that they were not allowed towithdraw if they did not want to participate. This is because Xinqi vil-lage has a local practice of land exchange in which anyone whose landis in SLCP-targeted area but does not want to be part of the SLCP canexchange their land with that of someone whose land is not in theal actors in SLCP decision-making.image of Fig.2Table 5Land cover change on the plots of SLCP.Land use/cover 2002 2010 20022010ha % ha % ha %PingzhangClosed canopy forest 1.89 2.02 13.63 14.41 11.74 12.39Open canopy forest 1.71 1.83 8.43 8.91 6.72 7.08Agricultural land 87.66 93.65 68.87 72.82 18.79 20.83Shrub 3.21 2.5 3.61 3.82 0.4 1.32Grass 0 0 0.04 0.04 0.04 0.04XinqiClosed canopy forest 16.29 3.34 175.58 35.95 159.29 32.61Open canopy forest 117.63 24.15 213.93 43.81 96.3 19.66Agricultural land 228.33 46.87 21.22 4.35 207.11 42.52Shrub 93.33 19.16 36.37 7.45 56.96 11.71Grass 31.59 6.48 39.25 8.04 7.66 1.56Source: Field survey 2011.36 J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038targeted area and doeswant to participate. The village is also able to usecollectively-owned land for such exchanges to help the program runsmoothly.4.2.2. Local dynamics of decision-makingFrom farmer's perception, Fig. 2 outlines the dynamics of SLCPdecision-making and different actors' influences in three key compo-nents: quota allocation, land selection and species selection. InPingzhang, about 50% of the sampled households saw the townshipgovernment as the dominating actor in decisions about quotas, landselection and species selection. The county forest department rankedsecond, with 14.7% of households perceiving them as playing a keyrole in land and species decisions and 20.6% of households thinkingthat they had a key role in decisions on quotas. This reflects the countyforest department's collaborationwith the township government in thedesign of the program. The village heads were ranked below the countyforest department and are the key actors consulted to determinewhether the program can be implemented in the villages. The villageheads were ranked as having a greater role in decisions on land selec-tion than on those about quotas and species. In practice the finaldecision about the area to be used for the programwas made via nego-tiations between the village head and township government and be-tween the village head and farmers. The village heads are thereforekey facilitators who have the final word on land selection. The farmersreported that they themselves had a say in the species selection(20.6% of farmers): the township suggested that they planted walnuttrees in 2005, but this was finally decided by the Pingzhang farmersthemselves.In Xinqi, different actors play different roles in different sectors. Over50% of household perceived the county forest department to be the keyactor in decisions about quota allocation. The county forest departmentalso designed the plan for the county overall and directly approachedthe higher-level forest department to request quotas. The village head'scollaboration with the township government over the quota allocatedto the village was perceived as a secondary role. As for the decision onland selection, 43.7% of household saw the village heads as key influen-tial actors who selected the land themselves. Asmost interviewees stat-ed, the village head assisted in the land exchange and negotiated withthe township government to include remote and marginal land. Thismade them influential in the land selection. Again, the village headshad a say in the species selection,with 39.6% of the sampled householdsranking them the top actors in this.In sum, although SLCP policy calls for volunteers, in general the pro-gramwas implemented using a top-down approach. The township gov-ernment and county forest department played a dominant role indecision-making regarding quota allocation, targeting the area to beconverted and selecting the species to be grown. In Xinqi, a well-organized local institution facilitated the process of implementation tohelp to meet local needs. However, in Pingzhang, which lacked socialcohesion and a sound institution, the village head was very little down-wardly accountable to the local population regarding the SLCP. Thisdifference led to different environmental and social outcomes, whichare examined in the next section.4.3. Environmental and social outcomes of the SLCPThis section presents the environmental and social outcomes of theSLCP which resulted from interactions between the local institutionsand the state. It presents the quantified biophysical and socioeconomicsdata incorporated the analysis of the differences between the local insti-tutions and implementation of the SLCP.4.3.1. Forest cover changes after the programTable 5 shows local land cover before and after the SLCP in a time se-ries from 2002 and 2010, illustrating the significant difference in forestcover on SLCP plots. In Pingzhang, forest cover on SLCP plots has in-creased, but agricultural land still occupies 72.82% of the total area.From 2002 to 2010, forest cover increased from 3.6% to 23.32% at theexpense of a 20.83% decrease in agricultural land area. Closed and opencanopy forest cover reached 14.41% and 8.91% in 2010. However, theSLCP has not made as big a contribution to forest cover increase as policyintention, particularly due to the tree species planted and poor manage-ment; the early pear plantation had a low survival rate and later theyoung walnuts were planted sparsely, all contributing little to forestcover increase.In Xinqi, as shown in Table 5, there has been a clear shift fromagriculture-dominated to forested land cover. From 2002 to 2010 forestcover increased from27.49% to 79.76% of the total areawhile agricultur-al land decreased from 46.87% to 4.35%. In particular, there was a signif-icant increase in closed canopy forest from 3.34% to 35.95%, while opencanopy forest cover increased from24.15% to 43.81%. Clearly the SLCP inXinqi has had a good environmental outcome andmade a strong contri-bution to forest cover increase, as expected. The selection of tree speciesand good management by the collective forest farm has played an im-portant role in the forest's rapid recovery through dense plantation oftimber tree species.In Xinqi, although decision-making about policy implementation isconcentrated at higher levels of government, the village's facilitationand local innovations in land exchange have helped to improve theprogram's implementation from land targeting to species selection.With high local involvement and support, the SLCP in Xinqi hasachieved a better ecological outcome, in terms of increasing forestcover, than Pingzhang.4.3.2. Socioeconomic outcomesTable 6 shows the result of a socioeconomic assessment based on thevillage surveys. It is clear that neither village has directly benefited fromthe trees planted yet, although the pear trees have matured and arefruiting in Pingzhang. Interestingly, more farmers in Xinqi than inPinghzhang think that the amount of compensation is reasonable, at68.9% and 50% respectively, with significant difference of P b 0.001.This is because: 1) a number of plots converted in Pingzhang had beenproducing agricultural outputworthmore than the standard compensa-tion,whereas the plots in Xinqi weremuch less productive, as shown bythe village survey; and 2) farmers in Xinqi perceive that the timber treesthey planted will give better returns in future with the current trend ofincreasing timber prices, while in Pingzhang there is uncertainty aboutproducingwalnut and pear in the absence of support in techniques andtraining. As shown in Table 6, there is a significant difference betweenthe number of farmers receiving a forest title in Xinqi (93.8%) andthose in Pingzhang (76.5%) (P b 0.01). These forest titles provide secu-rity of forest tenure and incentives for famers to engage in long-termTable 6Socioeconomic assessment of sampled households after SLCP.Questions to farmers Pingzhang (%)(n = 34)Xinqi (%)(n = 48)Chi-squareX2Direct benefit from tree Yes 0 2.1 0.717No 100 97.9Do you have a forest title to the converted land? Yes 76.5 97.9 9.368**No 23.5 2.1Subsidy amount Too low 8.8 6.2 40.176***Low 41.2 25.0Reasonable 50 68.8High 0 0Too high 0 0Satisfaction with land selected Satisfied 85.3 97.9 4.676*Not satisfied 14.7 2.1Satisfaction with tree species selected Satisfied 70.6 97.9 12.797***Not satisfied 29.4 2.1Success of the program Successful 76.5 97.9 9.368**Not successful 23.5 2.1Source: Field survey 2011; *p b 0.05, **p b 0.01; ***p b 0.001.37J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038forest management.7 There is also a significant difference between thetwo villages in terms of farmers' satisfaction with the selection of land(P b 0.05) and tree species (P b 0.001), at 97.9% and 97.9% in Xinqiand 85.3% and 70.6% in Pingzhang. Thus in general more villagers inXinqi than in Pingzhang are satisfied and consider the program a suc-cess (significant at P b 0.01).5. Discussion and conclusionThis study differs from previous studies of forest restoration in Chinain its focus on the role of local governance and is supported by a combi-nation of quantitative and qualitative data to explain differences in pol-icy outcomes. It shows that forest cover change and socioeconomicimplications at the two study sites differ widely depending on thelocal institution, although the SLCP generally adopted a similar top-down approach to policy implementation in both. Insufficient powerwas transferred to village level, even though the state's SLCP policyaims to promote local participation and autonomy, as also observed byWeyerhaeuser et al. (2005), Xu et al. (2004), and Bennett (2008). Thedynamics of local governance can lead to different ecological and socio-economic outcomes, which helps to explain why the SLCP has betterpositive outcomes in one place than in another. The program is morelikely to be successfulwhere there are local institutionswith downwardaccountability and self-governance, as supported by the decentraliza-tion theory (Agrawal and Ribot, 1999; Ribot and Larson, 2005; Ribotet al., 2006). In Xinqi the long tradition of community forestry and thelocal election system have created local autonomy in response to thestate program, and the village has developed a locally-adapted and in-novative institution to ensure equitable benefit distribution and sharing.The local institution gave farmers a strong incentive to participate in theSLCP and its collectivemanagement contributed to better ecological andsocioeconomic outcomes. This is clearly evidenced by the dramaticallyincreased percentage of forest cover and people's satisfaction in Xinqi,which is greater than that in Pingzhang.The research findings have extensive implications for the implemen-tation of the SLCP and other state forest policy. Apart from providingfinancial incentives and free materials, the Chinese state also attemptedto promote local autonomy and participation in the SLCP as forest decen-tralization reform. However, the effectiveness of forest decentralizationrequires extensive understanding of the local context and recognition of7 The forest title is given for 70 years, which entitles the holder to a bundle of rights in-cluding access, harvest, management, exclusion, transfer and mortgage, while the timberharvest is subject to limit by harvest quota (see He, 2012).local institutions far beyond a political slogan or mandatory policy pro-moting local volunteerism and autonomy, as Ribot remarks (1999). InXinqi, the local institution has helped to ensure that local needs are con-sidered by high-level government, while the village committee inPingzhang has failed to facilitate the negotiation process for SLCP imple-mentation. Thus the meaningful transfer of power in decentralizationreform requires not only allocating decision-making power to local ad-ministrative bodies on paper, but also setting up an enabling mechanismto ensure that decisions can be made at the local level to follow localrequirements (cf. Ribot et al., 2006).The insights from this researchhavewide relevance for internationaldebate on forest restoration governance. They show the importance oflocal institutions and autonomy in shaping forest restoration policyoutcomes, as also observed in previous studies (Castella et al., 2005,Clement and Amezaga, 2008, 2009; He et al., 2014). Beyond that,this research also shows that sound local institutions and autonomy re-quire not only downward accountability but also the capacity of localactors to coordinate and facilitate different levels of stakeholders. Thusthe outcomes of policy implementation are inextricably linked to theroles of each level of decision-making and how these relate to thoseabove and below them. Building local capacity for institutional develop-ment can be achieved bymeaningful decentralization, as without pow-ers people are less likely to learn or to even engage in capacity buildingefforts (Ribot, 2003).Moreover, the insights have particular implications for developingcountries, where state reforestation policy is commonly implementedfrom the top down, even in the context of decentralization such as landallocation and administration reform (e.g. Calvo-Alvarado et al., 2009;Clement and Amezaga, 2009). While studies are questioning the effec-tiveness of state policy in afforestation, it is important to understandhow local responses to state policy can differ and how local enablingmechanisms can be developed to improve policy implementation bystrengthening local institutions and good governance (cf. He et al.,2014). The implications for policy in the Chinese context, therefore,include a need for institutional reform across the country's socio-ecological system, with the policy-maker considering local dynamicsin policy formulation and implementation and developingmechanismsof accountability and local institutions.AcknowledgmentThis research is financed by the Ford Foundation in Beijing(G66006561) and I-REDD+ project (funded by the European Union,Project No. 265286). I also acknowledge Rong Lang's support with theanalysis of land use change, valuable insights from two anonymous re-viewers and Sally Sutton's copyediting assistance.38 J. He / Forest Policy and Economics 46 (2014) 3038ReferencesAgrawal, A., Ribot, J.C., 1999. Accountability in decentralization; a framework with SouthAsian and West African Cases. J. Dev. Areas 33 (4), 473502.Bennett, M.T., 2008. China's sloping land conversion program: institutional innovation orbusiness as usual? Ecol. Econ. 65 (4), 699711.Bryman, A., 2001. 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forest restoration: Local case studies of sloping land conversion program in Southwest China1. Introduction2. A decentralization lens for the analysis of forest restoration governance3. Research site and methods3.1. Study area3.2. Methods4. Results4.1. Dynamics of local institutions in forest management4.1.1. Pingzhang village4.1.2. Xinqi village4.2. Local participation and decision-making in the SLCP4.2.1. Local participation in SLCP4.2.2. Local dynamics of decision-making4.3. Environmental and social outcomes of the SLCP4.3.1. Forest cover changes after the program4.3.2. Socioeconomic outcomes5. Discussion and conclusionAcknowledgmentReferences

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