Forest Landscape and Livelihood Project
The IUCN Livelihoods and Landscapes (LLS) project, with BFS as its main partner, was initiated in 2007 responding to the deficits in natural resource management and local livelihoods detected. Both of these factors were ultimately influencing the water that arrived in Beijing as the forests in the Miyun watershed act as important water filters and the quality of sustainable local livelihoods is correlated to the degree of water pollution. The changes IUCN and BFS set out to make were both holistic and innovative. The LLS Miyun project has generated important lessons about the process of working to improve landscapes and livelihoods in a watershed context. It was part of the larger LLS global project, also initiated in many other countries.
Title: Livelihoods and Landscapes Strategy in the Miyun Watershed
Parties: IUCN, BFS
Topics: Forest Management, Livelihoods
Rationale and Background
The Miyun Watershed is Beijing’s most important source of drinking water. Protecting the water quality and increasing the water quantity are the most important goals for the watershed. It very quickly very clear that these two goals strongly depended on two factors: the natural environment in the watershed and the human influence on water streams.
In the 70s and 80s large parts of the Miyun watershed were deforested and supplying sediment loaded water, threatening to clog up the reservoir while mining companies and factories further degraded the water quality. The government initiated a large-scale reforestation and instated strict rules for water protection, such as the establishment of water protection zones that forbids in sensitive zones mining or factories but also for instance large-scale animal husbandry and a logging ban on most forests. The water quality improved but many of the locals living in the watershed were not only forced to search for other ways of earning income but also hindered in their development in general.
Realizing that simply forbidding people to do certain things is not necessarily a sustainable solution as real alternatives have to be created, IUCN’s LLS project focused on strengthening those livelihoods and adding value at the local level.
Furthermore, the forests that were created through afforestation and protected through the logging ban were becoming overly dense and less and less resilient, especially as they usually only consisted of one species. Improving these forests and transitioning them to more natural forests with the help of close-to-nature forestry was the second big focus of the LLS project.
Main Project Goal: Improve forest management regime
The current forest management regime is undermining biodiversity, watershed protection values and livelihoods. The strict logging ban and conservative management regime needed to be replaced with a forest development and management strategy that would not just allow for a better protection of the watershed, but would also maintain and improve forest health, and ensure better incomes and livelihood security for the surrounding human population.
LLS Country-Level Goal
The effective implementation of national and local policies and programmes that leverage real and meaningful change in the lives of rural poor, enhance long-term and equitable conservation of biodiversity and ensure the sustainable supply of forest-related goods and services in line with nationally-defined priorities.
70% of the forests on the project sites were designated as “protection forests” and therefore protected by a logging ban. However, in order to improve the health of the forest, thinnings (the removal of a few trees to give the remaining trees more light and resources) had to be conducted. Nearly all of the forests were young (95% below the age of 40) and even-aged. In order to treat the stands, the local forest departments, which were the Forestry Bureau of Miyun County and the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Forestry and Parks had to give the approval. They authorized a small harvesting quota of 200m2 in 2008 which was the first one in 20 years.
Landscape restoration through improved techniques used to manage forests (or, more accurately, introducing an active management regime for the first time) was a major aim of the project. The intention was to develop and apply silvicultural practices which would improve the quality, structure and function of forests – in particular increase indigenous species, enhance re-growth, and provide a more conducive environment for biodiversity conservation. At the same time, sustainable utilization and the selective harvesting of trees and forest products was also envisaged as a means of providing tangible benefits for local communities. It was also important to get participatory input into the forest management goals from the villagers.
Due to the logging ban the main utilization of the forest was through fuel-wood and Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) collection. These were usually, though, not the main income of the households but especially important for the poorest households.
In order to decrease the community’s fuelwood demand, BFS and IUCN helped to build new, more fuel-efficient Kang beds. A kang bed is a heated large platform that receives its heat from a cooking stove in the other room and is both used for sleeping and socializing. Each community also received information sessions on the effect of fuelwood collection on the local vegetation and how they can make smarter choices.
Generally the income level was very different between the two villages, Huayuan being located in Beijing province having a significantly higher income than Xiaowopu which is located in the province of Hebei.
Most villagers felt they had profited in rather indirect ways. Examples include perceptions of greater empowerment to take a greater role in decision making, increased self-confidence to express their views, improved relationships within the community, raised awareness about environmental issues, and new job and employment opportunities.
While the overall income also increased, especially due to a sharp decrease in the number of “poor” households which may also be due to an increase in tourism and the general development of the region.
During the course of the project, a major achievement has been the achievement of a logging quota for Huayan Village, and it is hoped that this will in turn stimulate additional changes in the allocation of forest management rights to communities in the broader Miyun watershed.
One of the perhaps most important achievements is getting a logging quota for the much more strictly protected forests around Huayuan village.
Another important achievement is the introduction of participatory forest management, namely Village Forest Management Plans. As it involves local communities directly in forest planning it gives them a much greater sense of ownership and responsibility for the forests. This has also proven to the higher-level decision makers that forest management under village guidance does not necessarily lead to a depletion of the forest but rather an improvement of them. This is, so to say, a classical win-win situation and will hopefully encourage a more flexible approach towards forest management in the future.