Community management of Chinese hickory (Carya cathayensis) on Tianmu mountain, Zhejiang province, China

This case study focuses on community management of an Chinese hickory forest in Tianmu Mountain area, Zhejiang province, China. Chines hickory, as the major product of Tianmu mountain in Lin'an, provides considerable benefits to local population. The management of the hickory forest and the development of hickory industry were strongly associated with government's policy. This study tries to examine the impacts of changes in China's land tenure policy on tenure and management of collaborative forests. Related stakeholders will be introduced. In order to achieve the sustainable development goal of local economy and ecosystem, an ecological management mode jointly developed by community foresters and local government were established. The challenges that emerged with the development of Carya cathayensis industry will be mentioned, and related improvements will be proposed.

Geographic information

Tianmu mountain is located in Lin'an county, northwest of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in eastern China. It consists of two peaks: West Tianmu with 1,506 meters' high and East Tianmu with 1,480 meters' high. [1]There are more than 2000 species of plants growing on the mountain[2], including the last surviving truly wild population of Ginkgo trees. The mountain also provides habitat for hundreds of species of birds and animals, including 39 endangered or protected species. [3]

Forest category

The economic forest is an important forest category in China that provides economic benefit[4]. Based on the Forest Law of The People's Republic of China, economic forests are "trees mainly aimed at the production of fruits; edible oils, soft drinks and ingredients; industrial raw materials; and medicinal materials"[5]. This forest category typically provides economic benefits to farmers through providing non-timber forest products, such as fruits, edible oils, medicinal materials, etc. Carya cathayensis is one of the highest economic efficiency economic forest species. Most recent research shows that the area of Chinese hickory forest in Lin'an city was about 14,000 hm2[4]. The cultivation mode of ecological economic forest can be grouped into four categories: Pure forest, mixed forest, multi-story mixed forest, and Courtyard ecological economic forest. Carya cathayensis is typically managed in pure forest and mixed forest cultivation modes. Most economic forests in China are pure forests. Disadvantages of this cultivation mode are obvious: loss in biodiversity and deforestation. This cultivation mode can maximize the economic profits with less efforts put into management but it is sensitive to the threats. Potential loss can be large. Mixed forest that comprise multiple tree species have higher ecological and economic benefits than previous forest category. This forest category has more resilience to threats. There are some mixed forests of Phyllostachys heterocycla and Carya cathayensis in Tianmu mountain[4].

History of Carya cathayensis industry

  • 1982-1988: Due to the fact that it was not long before the collective mountain forest came to the household, the forest farmers were unsure about the collective forest right system and policies, and are worried about the policy changes. They had not developed hickory planting, and were also neglecting the proper management of wild pecan[6]. Therefore, at this stage, the growth of hickory yield was slow. In the early 1970s, people began to process salted hickory and hickory sugar as commodities for supply market. In the late 1970s, more flavors of hickory were invented and processed. But on the whole, the processing enterprises were still small in scale and had few kinds of products[6]. As a result of national regulation and control, hickory was purchased by the state in a unified way, mainly at the planned price[6].
  • 1989-2002: The hickory market continued to improve. The scale of processing enterprises continued to expand, and the number of them kept increasing. In 2000, more than 90% of hickory in Lin'an went on the market after being processed. With the 'hand-stripping hickory' entering the market in 2001, the price of hickory increased, and the farmers' income increased, which greatly mobilized the enthusiasm of farmers in planting hickory and also increased the input of it[6].
  • 2003-now: At this stage, due to the continuous improvement of collective forest right system and stable policies, forest farmers can plant hickory at ease and develop hickory industry[6]. With the economic benefit of it becoming more and more obvious, hickory industry gradually became the main source of income of local people. Meanwhile, with the development of technology, the yield of hickory became more stable and predictable. Planting area kept enlarging, hickory yield increased steadily and rapidly. Cooperatives gradually played a role. Processing enterprises began to pay attention to brand building and propagating.[6]

Alterations in tenure at different period of time

The tenure arrangement of forests has undergone fundamental alterations in China. Policies for tenure of forests in different provinces has experienced uniform changes. Thus, forest tenure in Zhejiang province has undergone a similar way as that of the Naidu village in Yunnan province. Until the 1950s in China, most forest land were owned by landlords, and these groups of people's rights to forest were recognized at higher levels of government[7][8]. Rural area began to have rights to land and forest since the Land Reform Campaign(1950-1952). The forests owned by landlords and wealthy people were confiscated and distributed equally to rural households[8][9]. At the same time, state-owned forestry was established. Although, elementary cooperatives were set up, farmers still had private ownership of forest during the period of socialist transformation (1953-1956)[8][9]. Agricultural production was organized in three levels: household, mutual aid team, and elementary cooperative[9]. From 1957 to 1978, it was a period of collective ownership and management of forests, also known as the People's Commune and the Cultural Revolution. Private ownership of forest was ended as the establishment of advanced cooperatives[9]. All land became collective-owned, and farmers no longer had the ownership of forest land[8]. After the Cultural Revolution, the government realized the importance of private ownership of forest. The Central Committee of CCP and State Council issued a document to reform the forest sector. The forest sector reform aimed to stabilize forest tenure, allocate collective non-forested lands, and determine the forestry production responsibility system which was similar to the "household responsibility system" in the agricultural sector[8][9]. There was a devolution of forest management that distributed collective non-forested land and degraded forests to households as family plots. Wastelands including mountains, hills, beaches, and ditches owned by the state or the collective were transferred to farmers or other economic organizations. Moreover, forest land contracting period can reach up to 70 years[8]. Since 2003, more and more households have gotten forest tenure certificates. Most of forest are owned by the state and collective, and household tenure certificates take up 23%[8].

Tenure change in different period of time[8][9]
Period of time Main changes
Land reform campaign(1949 - 1952)
  • Confiscated all the forests owned by landlords
  • Confiscated forests were equally distributed to rural households
  • Establishment of state-owned forestry
The period of Socialist Transformation(1953 -1956)
  • Forest ownership was still private
  • Collective-ownership agricultural production cooperatives (elementary)
  • The integrity of forest ownership was further reduced
  • Three levels of agricultural production:
    • Household
    • Mutual aid team
    • Elementary cooperative
The People's Commune and the Cultural Revolution(1957 -1978)
  • Advanced cooperatives
  • All land became collective-owned, farmers no longer had ownership of forest land
  • The end of private ownership of forests
  • Highly concentrated forest ownership, collective possession of forest tenure
Forest sector reform(1979-1991)
  • Stabilized forest tenure
  • Allocated collective non-forested lands to farmer households
  • Determined the forestry production responsibility system
  • Devolution of forest management
Distributing collective Westlands to rural households (1992 - 1998)
  • Family plots
  • Distributing the wastelands and degraded forestlands to farmers or other economic organizations
  • Forest land contracting period can reach up to 70 years
Giving forest rights back to households(2003 - present)
  • Most of the forest ownership was owned by the state and collective
  • Household tenure certificates (20.32%)

Management arrangement

Arrangements for non-state owned forest management can be divided into two categories: collective management and household-based management. Households who have family plots had rights to use collective wastelands without any charge, and the use rights to family plots are leased to households[9]. The tenure of responsibility hills was not well defined. Trees in responsibility hills were collectively owned. Responsibility hills have merged with family plots and have finally reverted to collective management[9]. Households who hold contracts or leases of collective wastelands have rights to collective wastelands. Similar to household-based management, the self-initiated shareholding system offers use rights to collective wastelands distributed physically to households[9]. Turning to collective management, all the tree and forest products are collective properties.

Current forest tenure and management institutions in China[9]
Collective management
  • Modified collective management
  • Shareholding system
Household-based management
  • Family plots
  • Responsibility hills
  • Contract/ lease by individuals of collective wastelands
Self-initiated shareholding system
  • Farmer-farmer collaboration
  • Company-community partnership
  • Collaboration between outside individual and community/ households

Forestry administrative management system has been implemented to manage forests in China since 1949 when the Ministry of Forestry and Land Reclamation was established[10]. Although Yunnan province and Zhejiang province are two distinct provinces in China, state forestry bureaus of them are controlled and managed by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration. Therefore, the forestry administrative management system in Zhejiang province is similar to that in Yunnan province.

The National Forestry and Grassland Administration is an administrative arm of the People's Republic of China. It is the highest department that is in charge of the national forestry affairs in China[11].

Zhejiang province forestry Bureau is lower-level department than National forestry department but it is the highest government department of forestry in Zhejiang province. It takes charge of the provincial forestry affairs.

The Forestry Bureau of Hangzhou city is the lower-level department that manages all forests in Hangzhou, including villages in the Tianmu Mountain area. Thus, forests in Tianmu Mountain area are under the charge of the Forestry Bureau of Hangzhou city.

Affected stakeholders Objectives Relative power
Local farmers who plant Chinese hickories trees Farmers' livelihood depends on the harvest and sale of hickories; They sale the product to the associated companies or merchants High interest, medium power
Farmers' Cooperative Organization Offer knowledge about ecological management mode and educate farmers to manage the land properly without damaging the ecosystem High interest, high power
Production and operation enterprises Process hickories and sale them High interest, low power

Local farmers care about hickories because their families rely on it. They are able to manage their own land and operate their management mode.

Farmers' Cooperative Organization is a self-help organization that is voluntarily united and democratically managed by producers and operators of similar agricultural products. The organization can teach farmers ecological managing knowledge and give them financial aid. They can make their own standards and rules.

Production and operation enterprises have strong connection with the yield and quality of Lin'an hickory. Harvested hickories are delivered to these enterprises to have further operations. But they do not have high power on controlling the hickory[12].

Interested stakeholders Objectives Relative power
Supporting enterprises
  • Offer basic agricultiral materials to farmers
low interest, low power
Scientific research institutions
  • Offer technological support to hickory industry
low interest, medium power
Local scientific research team
  • Formulate industry standards
  • Supervise the operation of enterprises
  • Provide technical guidance and information exchange platform for enterprises
  • Participate in regional brand building
medium interest, high power
Lin'an government
  • Formulate industrial development plans
  • Build local infrastructures and various incentive mechanisms to encourage the innovative development of enterprises
  • Participate in the construction and promotion of Lin'an pecan brands
low interest, high power

Supporting enterprises include companies that offer basic material support to local farmers. For instance, seedling, pesticide, chemical fertilizer and agricultural machinery equipment companies. If the forest land in Lin'an do not need their products, they can find other buyers.

Scientific research institutions include many institutes of forestry in state, provincial, and county level, such as Lin'an Institute of forestry, Hangzhou Institute of forestry, Asian Forestry Institute, Zhejiang University, Zhejiang agricultural and Forestry University. They offer technological support to hickory industry such as developing new species, seedling raising method and cultivation management. They make researches and share their achievements with Lin'an county, they are not forced to make researches so these institutions are in the low interest category.

Local scientific research team is a hickory guild formed in Lin'an, they formulate industry standards and rules, supervise the operating of related enterprises, also provide technological support to hickory cultivation and industry. If the hickory industry does not go well, they may face the risk of dissolution.

Lin'an government can make industrial development plans and infrastructure to encourage hickory industry. They also give financial aid to cooperatives and farmers.

With each stakeholder contributing to community forests and hickory industry, Lin'an county is gradually forming an industrial agricultural industry cluster. More enterprises and institutions are involved in the cluster and play their parts[12]. Lin'an county is becoming a hot spot of hickory production which greatly contributes to local development. But as a result, local forests are gradually damaged due to rude management mode and farmers regardless of the importance of sustainability. Therefore, an ecological management mode was been introduced[4]. Several proposals in managing are as follows:

  • Install black light insecticidal lamp in forest and start using physical measure to kill pests.
  • Plant ryegrass and Chinese milk vetch in the forest in order to balance the ecosystem and conserve soil and water.
  • Forbid the use of herbicides.
  • Use natural fertilizer or special fertilizer to manage the forest.
  • Let the hickory drop on the ground after mature instead of picking it in the tree. It can reduce the risk of falling from the tree and also ensures the plumpness of hickory.

Despite the ecological management mode, there are still many challenges local forest and hickory are facing:

  • The ecological management mode need improvement and wider propaganda because many farmers were still operating the forest land rudely, and were overusing chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides[13]. Because of the excessive reclamation of the forest land, biodiversity has reduced and environment has been destructed to some extent. The peel of hickory also badly contaminates the local environment[6].
  • Education level of farmers and staff is low. They have little recognition of either ecological management and new technology in production, which threatens the local ecosystem and limits the yield[6].
  • The corporation's scale is generally small and the technology level is low. Lacking mature managing and processing technology, the processing efficiency cannot be fully realized[14].
  • The main selling area is only in a small range, a sales network has not been built yet[6].
  • Lack of financial aid from government, farmers worry about over-input of money on this new mode and do not want to take risks.[4]
  • Establish more complete ecological management mode and increase the sustainability of forest lands.
  • Accelerate technological development and do better popularization of ecology knowledge to local people.
  • Make more innovations and improve the technology so that more advanced equipment can be invented and used in hickory producing and processing.
  • Establish leading enterprises and create leading brands.
  • Attach importance to the building of roads in forests to improve infrastructure, so that farmers can get into the forest more easily and better look after their lands.
  • Government should improve the credit scheme and give more financial the ecological management project.
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  2. Rong, Lu. 2007. “Climbing High to Blessed Coolness.” Retrieved November 29, 2019 (
  3. André van Beek, Teris (2000). Ginkgo biloba. p. 9. ISBN 90-5702-488-8.
  4. Cheng, X., Lin, Z., Dai, W., & Yu, W. (2003). Ecological and economic forest and sustainable development. Journal of Zhejiang Forestry and Science & Technology, 23(3), 79–82.
  5. Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. (1998). The Forest Law of the People’s Republic of China.
  6. Qiu-ju, Lü, SHEN Yue-qin, GAO Yu-lie, and HUANG Jian-qin. 2012. “Development Process,agents and Prospect of Hickory Industry." Journal of Zhejiang A & F University, 2012, Vol. 29, Issue 1, Pages: 97-103 29(1):97–103.
  7. Menzies, N. K. (2007). Naidu Village , Yunnan Province , China Book Title : Our Forest , Your Ecosystem , Their Timber Book Subtitle : Communities , Conservation , and the State in Community-Based Forest Management Book Author ( s ): Nicholas K . Menzies Published by. Our Forest, Your Ecosystem, Their Timber: Communities, Conservation, and the State in Community-Based Forest Management.
  8. Liu, Y., Zhang, Y., Guo, Y., & Yu, B. (2013). The historical evolution of Chinese forest right policies. Hebei Journal of Forestry and Orchard Research, 28(1).
  9. Liu, D. (2001). Tenure and Management of Non-State Forests in China since 1950 : A Historical Review. Environmental History, 6(2), 239–263.
  10. Lei, Z. (2006). Reform of the forest sector in China. Retrieved from
  11. The National Forestry and Grassland Administration. (2019). Web of Chinese forestry. Retrieved from
  12. 12.012.1 Shuxia, Chen. n.d. “Research on the Structure and Measure of Agricultural Industry Cluster’s Value Chain System - in the Case of Lin’an Hickory Industry.” Retrieved November 29, 2019 (
  13. Xu, Y., Y. Shen, J. Huang, and J. Lin. n.d. “Farmer’s Willingness to Adopt Ecological Management Model for Carya Cathayensis.” Retrieved November 30, 2019 (
  14. Yang, Y. n.d. “Research on Ecology Management of Carya Cathayensis in Lin’an County.” Retrieved November 30, 2019 (
Seekiefer (Pinus halepensis) 9months-fromtop.jpg
This conservation resource was created by Xinyi, Zhang & Dun, Si. It is shared under a CC-BY 4.0 International License.

Post Image Credit: King of Hearts, Carya cathayensis nuts, CC BY-SA 4.0