Community-based Co-management of Forest Resources in Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve, Gansu, China

Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve has special geographical location and and cultural environment so it becomes the habitat of many endangered species. Meanwhile, because its location limitation and cultural environment, indigenous people heavily dependent on local forest resources. As a result, the ecosystem sustainability and living quality of local people cannot have great development. As the support of Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve Management Burea, community-based co-management projects were introduced into Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve. At the beginning, we will introduce some basic descriptions of Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve community-based co-management. By analyzing the varieties of CBCM projects and results from 2006 to 2010, to figure out how this conservation model is better than traditional management model. In addition, using different researches to analyze the power distribution among different stakeholders and how they use their power. For example, "Han people" vs. other ethnic minority people., villagers Vs. the government. In the end, we figure out some problems that is hidden behind CBCM projects. According to these problems, we will give some suggestion and recommendations to improve this management model.

The Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve in Gansu was established with the approval of the State Council in 1978 and is located at the southernmost tip of Gansu Province. The total area is 1837.99 square kilometers, divided into 901.58 square kilometers in the core area, 261.32 square kilometers in the buffer zone, and 675.09 square kilometers in the test area. Its forest coverage rate is 87.3%.[1] The Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve in Gansu is one of China's three key protected areas mainly for the protection of giant pandas. It is the only natural landscape area in Gansu Province with northern subtropical biological resources.

In January 1982, the nature reserve implemented three-level management at the ministry, provincial, and prefecture levels, and clarified management responsibilities at all levels. In June 1990, the comrade of the Ministry of Forestry changed its name to "Gansu Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve Administration." In February 1992, Gansu Province put the six tasks previously managed in the Longnan area under the management of the Provincial Forestry Department and restored the management system before 1982.[2]

Many rare and endangered wild animals and plants, such as giant pandas and Davidia involucrata, and their natural ecological environment and biodiversity are the objects of protection in the Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve in Gansu.

During the early 1970s,  Many countries became disenchanted with the results of large-scale, capital-intensive and centrally planned conservation and development projects for natural resource management. Intrusive sanctions and top-down decrees, a centralized government-based approach is more likely to yield a dismal outcome. Centrally planned natural resource management systems have often suffered from faulty design and have been marked by inefficiencies and even corruption[3][4] (Jusoff, 1995; Agrawal, 629-649; Buckles). In 1978, Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve (BNNR) was founded and direct affiliated to the State Forestry Administration of China.  

The ownership of the forest in the Baishuijiang Nature Reserve is divided into two, half of which are state-owned and half of which are collectively owned. One half of the Baishuijiang Nature Reserve is a state-owned forest and is strictly managed by the Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve Management Bureau (BNNRMB).[5] Any form of exploitation and utilization of forest resources is prohibited. The remaining 50% are collective forests belonging to local communities,  and its main purpose is the collection of firewood and other forest products for income. People hold access, withdrawal management and exclusion rights of forest resource from their collective forest; however, they do not have the right to sell or lease the forest. The boundaries between the two types of forests are clear,[5] which improves the management efficiency of BNNRMB and village committees, and reduces potential conflicts.

The BNNR is divided into three zones:

Zones Area Property
Testing Area 100,310 hectares Contain most of the human population; Only limited agriculture and subsistence hunting are permitted.
Buffer Area 26,032 hectares Few people and most productive and commercial activities are prohibited.
Core Area 97,329 hectares Farming, grazing and logging are prohibited and people cannot enter without official permission.

Restricted by national protection laws and policies, residents are unable to own too many collective forests as before. As a result, villagers' natural resources and self-sufficiency activities were restricted.[5] Conflicts arise when the social needs of local villagers cannot be met and the balance between national protection goals cannot be reached. In 2003, a new type of forest management, community-based co-management (CBCM) was introduced to BNNR. The CBCM projects were the combination of co-management and community-based management, and the CBCM is “people-centered, community-oriented, resource-focused and partnership-based”.[5]

CBCM has satisfied the requirement of participatory democracy and of building networks and linkages among different constituencies, interdisciplinary groups, levels of governments, and economic sectors. Besides, developing countries need for overall community and economic development and social empowerment, in addition to resource management (Robert, 2006) In China, the use of CBCM is accompanied by the implementation of a series of funded projects that are supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), World Wide Fund (WWF), World Bank (WB) and other international organizations with the main goals of conserving China's biodiversity, promoting socioeconomic development of nature reserves and their surrounding communities, and sustainable use of natural resources.

Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve is divided into 4 groups: Yangashan, Diebuzhai, Caoheba and Liziba CBCM Committees. CBCM committee members are selected from among local villagers, officers of BNNR, researchers from academic institutions and NGOs, share the responsibility and authority for the management of forest resources. Villager conferences are held regularly to resolve conflicts among villagers and gather public opinion.[1] To determine fairness and satisfaction, respondents were asked to mark their perception on project fairness and satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10. Almost 70% of respondents considered the projects to have been administered fairly and were satisfied with the work organized by their local CBCM committee.Villagers who violate operational rules are likely to be assessed a graduated sanction. Punishment is usually an economic sanction. If any problem arises, the CBCM committee convenes a conflict-resolution meeting for those involved. If the conflict is beyond the capability of the local committee, committee members will report it to the management bureau to help find a solution.

The affected stakeholders are mainly composed of three ethnic groups of local villagers: Han (67%), Zang (29%) and Hui (4%). The area around the Baimahe Reserve is made up of "Han" and "Zang", while the area around Bikou Reserve is mixed with "Han" and "Hui". The three ethnics are treated almost equally in terms of land use and other activities. Everyone needs to make a living from the fuelwood of collective forests. Even so, the population proportion of ethnic groups has a certain impact on the relevant power of ethnic groups in the CBCM project. The "Han"  people have the largest population and have the most say in implementing CBCM projects and local decision-making. The "Zang" and "Hui" people with smaller populations have less power in decision-making processes and reporting systems.[1]

Baishuijiang National Natural Reserve Management Bureau (BNNRMB)

BNNRMB has higher power than other stakeholders. It was founded in 1978 and affiliated to the State Forestry Administration of China, which belongs to the sub-organization of national government[1]. In other words, BNNRMB is the representative of the State Forestry Administration of China. Fifty percent of the forest of Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve is state-owned forest and is strictly under the management of BNNRMB. At the same time, The leaders of BNNRMB introduced community-based co-management to Baishuijiang National Reserve to mitigate conflict between resource protectors and local residents[1]. BNNRMB is consist of seven protection stations, they are Baimahe, Danbaohe, Liujiaping, Rangshuihe, Bikou, Hongtuhe, and Minbaogou Protection Stations[1].

Outside enterprises

they have the lowest power among stakeholders. All kinds of economic organizations and individuals at home and abroad may make investment and construction related to the protection of environmental resources in the experimental areas of nature reserves and enjoy relevant preferential policies[6]. Investment and construction activities must be examined and verified by the administrative department of nature reserves and reported to the competent administrative department of nature reserves under the state council or the provincial people's government for approval in accordance with relevant regulations[6].


They have lower power than other stakeholders. Diverse CBCM projects have been supported by a variety of international funds and non-government organizations in Baishuijiang National Nature Reserve. NGOs and other agencies can incorporate the knowledge and opinions of rural people in the planning and management of development projects and programs. In addition, the main purpose of the NGOs is conserving China s biodiversity, promoting the socioeconomic development of nature reserves and their surrounding communities, and sustainable use of natural resources[1].

Overall, CBCM projects have greatly increased forest conservation and local livelihoods but it has some problems at the same time.

Economic Improvement

With the development of CBCM, there is a significant positive impact of CBCM project participation on household income in four communities. Compared with the data from 2006, the household income level has increased, being improved at least 13.6% for Yanggashan Community and 101% growth in Liziba Community from 2006 to 2010[1]. To better demonstrate the positive impact of CBCM project, the income comparison of CBCM participators and non-participators is shown. In Caoheba community, CBCM participators have US$ 2334.00 /Year, while non-participators have US$ 1789.56 /Year. CBCM participators in Caoheba Community had US$ 423.13/ per year higher income than non-project households[1]. In Yanggashan community, CBCM participators have US$ 2445.00 /Year, while non-participators have US$ 1189.44 /Year. CBCM participators in Yanggashan Community had US$ 1,255.56/per year higher income than non-project households. In Diebuzhao community, CBCM participators have US$ 2505.00 /Year, while non-participators have US$ 1755.00 /Year. In Liziba community, CBCM participators have US$ 3692.00 /Year, while non-participators have US$ 2208.67 /Year. CBCM participators in Diebuzhao Community had US$ 750/ per year higher income than non-project households, US$ 1483.33/per year in Liziba. Meanwhile, Mean total household expenditures also increased significantly, primarily driven by the cost of education for children (US$ 496 /Yr in 2010) and the expense of weddings and (US$ 339 /Yr in 2010)[5]. Therefore, it appears that CBCM projects have a positive impact on the income of the local community.

Ecological Improvment

reduction of firewood consumption

Before the emergence of CBCM, local people use firewood as energy. From 2006 to 2010, both Caoheba and Liziba data show a remarkable reduction, with a 16 and 15% decrease, respectively[1]. However, Deibuzhai Community has 2% increase of firewood consumption because the CBCM projects fall into stagnation midway. By 2010 more than 60% households had energy-saving stoves, more than 15% of households had built marsh gas pools, electricity use had risen from 8% to 15%, and the use of petroleum gas had risen from 1% to 5%[5]. The advantages of the firewood-saving cooking stove mainly appeared to be its high utilization rate and practical function. Comparing with traditional tools, the new stoves help to reduce the demand for firewood. Because of the application of the stoves, housewives report faster cooking speed and a cleaner kitchen environment. people's happiness index is also increased.

reduction of non-timber forest product value

With the development of CBCM projects, more and more people focused on crop planting, livestock breeding or searching for jobs outside the community. Potherb or herb collecting became something that was done only to meet their families[1]. Between 2006 and 2010, three communities increased their amount of livestock breeding by more than 50%[1]. Whereas, an average decrease to 2.41 heads/ per household in Liziba community[1]. The reason is that the geographic condition and history determine Liziba to focus mainly on increasing local tea planting with little attention to livestock breeding. Other three communities transform from a nomadic grazing tradition to breeding livestock in barns. However, breeding livestock is also depended on forest resources. Due to the natural environmental limitation of tea planting, except for Liziba Community, the tea planting project is not a good fit for the other three communities, and so livestock breeding becomes a second choice.

Improvement of Human Capital

The formation of community committee offers many outstanding villagers the opportunity to participate and play an important role in the implementation of CBCM projects. The conservation awareness has been improved. By 2010 local residents awareness of and activity in the protection of forest resources had increased significantly[5]. CBCM projects provide a community platform to participants. Between 2006 and 2010 there were significant increases in community membership and social networks. CBCM projects provided greater opportunities for social interaction and for local community residents to communicate with each other. These opportunities help residents to improve and strengthen their community membership.

The Reasons of CBCM Projects' Success

  • CBCM projects always provide some kind of non-agricultural production work to help partners increase their family income.
  • CBCM projects usually provide information on potential employment from outside the communities.
  • Most of CBCM projects aim to improve livelihoods while reducing destructive uses of the forests and increasing awareness about forest protection.
  • Fourth, CBCM projects always provide training in professional agricultural techniques to enable farmers to improve crop varieties, optimize cultivation practices, and increase agricultural production.
  • CBCM projects advocate environment-friendly ideas, which not only help increase agricultural production and income, but can also helps to create sustainable livelihoods. For example, By shifting tea processing from family production to a unified standard mass production it is creating ecological benefits and economic benefits [5].

Problems in CBCM Projects

lack of law support

The development of CBCM mainly depends on short-term projects, and they have not been formally admitted by law. In fact, the relevant legislation about nature reserves is far from perfect and had a seriously negative impact on CBCM implementation. Although many of the existing regulations and policies are in theory supportive of CBCM, there is inadequate legal documentation of appropriate implementation steps and clear descriptions of responsibilities and authorities[1]. Therefore, in practice, the CBCM mechanism is difficult to implement in the long term.

devolution problem

Local communities were frequently only marginally more empowered than prior to the implementation of CBCM, with considerable control still residing in state authorities[5]. The authorization or decentralization of community based co-management project will pose a certain threat to political power of reserve area leaders, so they are unwilling to accept and support such projects voluntarily. There is little incentive for officials to transition from ‘‘top down’’ models of land management to the facilitation of local decision-making. The BNNRMB is responsible for policy making as the decision-making body, while the conmmunity committee is responsible for policy implementation as the administrative body. However, one of the principles of co-management should share the decision-making power equally, in other words, the community committee can also submit the decision according to the actual situation of work for the review and approval of the leading group. Because community committee as a concrete worker who has direct information and practical experience, there are more targeted ideas on understanding the problems of community development[7].

other problems

In order to obtain more funds and reduce the pressure of resource utilization, communities can always exaggerate the capital needs and underestimate the project objectives. Many projects do not scientifically demonstrate the feasibility of combining biodiversity conservation with sustainable economic development[7]. Traditional cultures and customs have important and stabilizing effects on local natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. But after establishment of a natural reserve these traditional and indigenous management methods and institutions are often ignored.

Affected stakeholders: after implementation of CBCM projects, the power villagers has increased but they still need under the management of BNNRMB. The villager representatives can join community committee and share the responsibility and authority for the management of forest resource. As key committee members, villager representatives play leading roles as organizers, managers and supervisors of local community and forest resource management[8]. Villagers only have 50% forest of BNNR. They only have access, withdraw management and exclusion rights of forest resource from their collective forest; however, they do not have the right to sell or lease the forest. In other words, they are users but not owners of the collective forest[9].

Interested stakeholders:

  • BNNRMB: BNNRMB as the mainly decision-making body has stated lots of rules. sometimes these rules do not consider the reality. For example. In order to achieve more effective natural resources protection, the local management authority has implemented rules for forest protection, such as forbidding grazing and firewood collecting in defined core areas. These regulations cannot be achieved in reality. Both Diebuzhai and Yanggashan villages are located within the core conservation area and are subject to restrictions on harvest and use of forest products, which is impossible to deprive people of their right to use forest resources to satisfy their basic livelihood requirements[5]. BNNRMB use their power to help villagers to improve conservation awareness. For example, managers from BNNR Management Bureau had done a lot of education work on environmental protection, which made them realize that overuse of forest resources could have serious implications for them, but also for future generations.
  • Outside enterprises have the lowest power which cooperate with other stakeholders.
  • NGOs: With support of WWF, the livestock breeding project and Tianma planting technique training increased the income of households with US$ 3,000 in Caoheba community. Foundation of Oxfam Hong Kong support Yanggashan community to implement the CBCM project “‘Protection of Giant Panda Habitat’’[1]. It also develop and make use of a Community Development Fund. The intent was to raise and distribute funds for household livelihood improvement, such as education investment, medical subsidy and so on[1]. The fund (US$ 3,100) is distributed to fund applicants in form of short-term loans with 3% of monthly interest. It is managed by the project participants. So far, 20 households have benefited from this project and it operates well. NGOs mainly provide technologies and fund, without any authority of decision making.
  • Local community residents should integrate these traditions to protect and manage local natural resources. CBCM projects and NGOs should respect and support these traditions in the process of CBCM project implementation and application

  • Managers need to shift from the traditional concept of protecting natural resources to the concept of serving community development.
  • Communities need to break the idea that conservation should be done by conservation workers and establish the idea that communities are the center of conservation.
  • The administration of Baishuijiang protected area has invited well-known experts to give lectures in the area and selected personnel to attend training courses on policies, regulations and management skills, which not only improves the comprehensive quality of the staff in the area, but also further enhances the understanding and trust between the protected area and the community, thus laying a foundation for community co-management[7].
  • To improve both the health of the forest ecosystem and the economic stability of forest-dependent communities is to move towards “enhanced community decision-making” or to provide communities an active voice in policy creation[10].

Under the cooperation of government, CBCM projects and local community residents, the harmonious development of sustainable livelihood improvement and forest resources conservation will be an important trend in the future.

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  6. 6.0 6.1 Regulations on the administration of protected areas in Gansu province. (2014, September 3). Retrieved November 29, 2019, from
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  8. Ting, Z; Shivakoti, G. P.; Maddox, D (2012). "A survey-based evaluation of community-based co-management of forest resources: a case study of Baishuijiang National Natural Reserve in China". Environment, Development and Sustainability. 14(2): 197–220. doi:10.1007/s10668-011-9316-6.
  9. Schlager, E., & Ostrom, E. (1992). Property-rights regimes and natural resources. Land Economics, 68(3), 249–262.
  10. Wortley, D. R. (n.d.). Community-based forest management planning in the yukon: The difficulties of government transfer of responsibility and authority to community agencies (Order No. MQ82366). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (305261507).:
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