Minshan and Qinling Mountains, China
Partnering to secure the future for people and pandas
When the reserves to protect the mountain habitat of China's giant pandas from commercial logging and deforestation were declared in 1998, the bans adversely affected the incomes of local counties and communities in already poor areas. With widespread illegal logging, poaching and other incursions threatening the attainment of conservation goals, it was apparent that local needs and aspirations had to be considered.
Securing the Future for People and Pandas
WWF, invited to China in 1980 to assist in conserving the panda, has played a critical role in developing programmes that help impoverished communities to find pathways and partners for progress. A case study is now showing that illegal and damaging activities in forest reserves decline when communities find alternative income streams.
The Minshan Landscape Initiative and the Qinling Panda Focal Project cover some of the largest remnant areas of densely forested land in China and are immensely important as catchment and biodiversity areas with golden monkey, takin, crested ibis, golden eagle, clouded leopard, red panda, giant salamandar and golden pheasant, in addition to their giant panda populations.
Building Local Capacities for Sustainable Livelihoods
For these projects, community participation is the cornerstone for assessing living conditions and exploring alternative income generating schemes. Capacity building and infrastructure assistance are provided to communities and other key players, such as the reserves. In conservation terms, real gains have been made in reducing degradation in forest fringe areas.
Data from 2002 surveys indicate that giant panda numbers are around 1,590.
Diversifying and Marketing Farm Produce
Farm enterprises supported by the projects have included bee and mushroom farming, pig and goat raising, cultivating vegetables and a sought after local variety of edible fern, fruit trees and herbs. Although part of the benefit is in improving community nutrition, considerable effort has gone into linking produce to potential markets, including the landmark Carrefour deal.
Ecotourism as an Option
Community based tourism and ecotourism ventures are encouraged to provide dual conservation and livelihood objectives. Small scale ecotourism activities hold more of the benefits for increasing domestic tourism within local communities and also provide a useful counterpoint to tourism development that damages the resource it depends on.
WWF has been assisting with the supply of fuel efficient stoves and biogas plants which have the added benefit of reducing illegal fuel wood collection problems in reserves. It is also supporting the construction of toilet facilities in home stays for tourists leading to improved overall sanitation and hygiene conditions.
Sustainable Rural Growth though Partnerships
A recent study concludes that 'The projects in Minshan and Qinling indicate that partnerships between the local people, the forest authorities and the private sector strengthen conservation management while offering opportunities for exploring economic benefits'.