Notions of justice in payments for ecosystem services: Insights from China's Sloping Land Conversion Program in Yunnan Province

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    Land Use Policy 43 (2015) 207216

    Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

    Land Use Policy

    j o ur na l ho me page: www.elsev ier .com/ locate / landusepol

    otions of justice in payments for ecosystem services: Insights fromhinas Sloping Land Conversion Program in Yunnan Province

    un Hea,b,c,,1, Thomas Sikorb,1

    College of Economics and Management, Yunnan Agricultural University, Kunming 650201, ChinaSchool of International Development, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UKWorld Agroforestry Centre, ICRAF East and Central Asia Program, Heilongtan, Kunming 650204, China

    r t i c l e i n f o

    rticle history:eceived 29 March 2013eceived in revised form 5 November 2014ccepted 10 November 2014

    eywords:usticeayments for ecosystem servicesand-use change

    a b s t r a c t

    Chinas Sloping Land Conversion Program (SLCP) pays millions of farmers to convert cropland in upperwatersheds to tree plantations. It is considered one of the worlds largest payments for ecosystem services(PES) scheme for its reliance on financial incentives. This paper examines the outcomes of the SLCP byway of a case study from the Yangliu watershed in Yunnan province. It focuses on the notions of justiceembedded in state policy and held by villagers and local state officials in order to understand the observedoutcomes in terms of peoples participation in the implementation of the SLCP, land use changes andlivelihood effects. Villagers, local state officials, and state policy share a primary concern about distributivejustice despite significant differences in their specific notions. The shared concern underlies the villagersivelihoodsolicy implementationhina

    positive reactions to the SLCP, which among other factors, have led to the intended expansion of treeplantations and a livelihood transition in Yangliu since 2003. The insights from Yangliu suggest the needto consider justice for a fuller understanding of the dynamics and outcomes of the SLCP and other PESschemes worldwide as the notions of justice applied by the involved actors may influence land use andlivelihood dynamics in addition to the other factors considered in research this far.

    2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.ntroduction

    In 2000, the Chinese government launched the Sloping Landonversion Program (SLCP), which uses public payments to pro-ote the conversion of cropland on steep slopes to forest and is the

    argest and best-funded afforestation program in China (Xu et al.,004; Li, 2004; Bennett, 2008). Also known as the Grain for Greenrogram, it is a landmark in Chinese forest policy because it makesovel use of financial instruments to provide land managers withonetary incentives. As such, it can be considered to represent a

    ype of state-led payments for ecosystem services (PES) schemeBennett, 2008; Liu et al., 2008; Chen et al., 2009; Kolinjivadi andunderland, 2012). Its key rationale reflects one of the defining

    rinciples of PES: the use of financial incentives to encourage upperatershed land use that generates beneficial consequences for peo-le downstream (Landell-Mills and Porras, 2002; Pagiola et al.,

    Corresponding author at: College of Economics and Management, Yunnan Agri-ultural University, Kunming 650201, China. Tel.: +86 871 5223014;ax: +86 871 5223377.

    E-mail address: (J. He).1 These authors share the authorship equally.

    ttp:// 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.2005; Wunder, 2005; Engel et al., 2008). The SLCP is even consid-ered one of the worlds largest PES scheme in terms of the numberof land managers, the area of implementation, and the amount offinance involved (Li, 2004; Xu et al., 2004; Liu et al., 2008).

    The SLCP has attracted significant criticism from researchers inChina and abroad. Studies of the programs formulation and insti-tutional arrangements highlight its top-down implementation andpoint out that this is a significant departure from the principleof voluntariness inherent in PES and may endanger its ambitiousreforestation goals (Xu et al., 2004; Bennett, 2008; Yeh, 2009; Yinand Yin, 2010; He et al., 2014). Other analyses have revealed thatthe SLCP has had negative consequences for local livelihoods: localincomes have declined due to the shift from agriculture to forestry(Uchida et al., 2007; Li et al., 2011), and people living in remoteupper watersheds have few livelihood options after converting totree plantations (Chen et al., 2009; Ma et al., 2009), bringing intoquestion the programs ability to engender a sustained land usetransition. However, recent research conducted after some revi-sions of the programs implementation modalities has qualified the

    initial insights into local livelihood outcomes, noting that it mayactually generate positive income effects and thereby contribute toreforestation and economic development under certain conditions(Liu et al., 2008; Hogarth et al., 2012; He, 2014).

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    08 J. He, T. Sikor / Land Us

    Ideas of justice, we note, have been central to this research,ven though they have remained largely implicit. Conceptionsf procedural justice have informed existing studies of programormulation and implementation, leading to the conclusion thatop-down implementation conflicts with key principles of par-icipation, which may limit the programs success. Distributiveustice is at the core of analyses of the programs impacts on localivelihoods, underlying conclusions that the initial payments werensufficient to cover local losses, and that current payments con-ribute to local incomes. An underlying hypothesis is that farmersay revert back to cropland if the payments do not cover their

    osses, or if they are not consulted in implementation; if paymentsover losses and farmers have a say, the villagers may maintain theree plantations.

    In this paper we go a step further to examine the notions ofustice embedded in state policy and those held by villagers andocal state officials (cf. Sikor, 2013). We argue that it is not enougho explain the programs successes and failures with regard toocal peoples role in its implementation, the level of compensationhey receive, or broader livelihood dynamics. Nor does it sufficeo point out distributive and procedural injustices in the abstractcf. McDermott et al., 2013). Instead, we pay explicit attention tonvolved actors notions of justice as a way to explain their reac-ions to the state program and to develop a better understandingf how the SLCP contributes to local livelihoods and reforestationn some places and fails to do so in others. This empirical approacho justice analysis connects villagers role in implementation, theayments made under the program, and their effects on livelihoodsith another important factor influencing the programs successr failure: the compatibility of the notions of justice embedded intate policy and informing state officials practices in implementa-ion with villagers ideas about what is just or unjust (cf. Whiteman,009; Martin et al., 2014).The theoretical objective of our paper is to demonstrate the

    eed to expand the analysis of PES by considering aspects of jus-ice. The outcomes and nature of PES schemes do not simplyepend on getting the price right so that payment levels exceedpportunity costs (Pascual et al., 2010). Nor are they solely deter-ined by the affected peoples participation in their design and

    mplementation via certain procedures or the crafting of suitablenstitutional arrangements (Vatn, 2010). Instead, the dynamics ofES on the ground are partially conditioned by the notions ofustice embedded in their design, actualized in their implemen-ation, and held by the involved actors (Sikor et al., 2013, 2014).ven though these notions may be hard to discern in practice,hey are as influential on the outcomes of PES schemes as otherimilarly intangible factors, such as socially constructed knowl-dge about upstream-downstream linkages (Blaikie and Muldavin,004).We use an in-depth case study from the Yangliu watershed in

    unnan Province to examine the influence of notions of justice onhe SLCP and on PES schemes more generally. A single case studybviously cannot yield a general explanation for why the SLCP orES schemes succeed or fail, yet we expect this in-depth inves-igation to reveal the significance of justice as an element of thenvironmental and social dynamics effected by these interventions.ur analysis of the SLCP in Yangliu poses two key questions: first,hat are the local outcomes of the SLCP in terms of local peoplesarticipation in its implementation, land use changes, and effectsn livelihoods; and second, how do the notions of justice embed-ed in state policy and held by villagers and local state officialsnfluence the observed local outcomes?The paper has six sections. Following the introduction weresent the empirical approach to justice that informs our research.ext, we introduce the study site and summarize our researchethods. Then we discuss the outcomes of the SLCP at the studycy 43 (2015) 207216

    site in terms of local peoples role in its implementation, land usechanges, and