Community-based forest enterprise development
Community-based Commercial Enterprise Development for the conservation of MountEmei World Heritage Site, Sichuan, China
PROJECT OBJECTIVES and DESCRIPTION: This project was funded by the United Nations Foundation and supported by FAO with the aim of encouraging the sustainable utilization and conservation of forest biodiversity at the Mount Emei World Heritage Site (WHS), in Sichuan. Many protected areas, including WHS, are at risk because of increases in population in the villages around them and conflicts between villages and park authorities. The strategy of this project was therefore to seek ways of developing economic incentives for the users of natural resources in these areas so as to encourage them to take an active part in the sustainable utilization and management of forest biodiversity. The process of enterprise creation emphasized the strengthening of traditional knowledge while creating access to markets and value addition technologies from outside the area.
PROJECT PARTNERS AND STAKEHOLDERS:
- United Nations Foundation, the Sichuan Province Forestry Department (SPFD), the Forest Bureau of the Leshan Prefecture, Mt Emei County Forest Bureau, and Mt Emei City Municipal Management Committee
- Village communities
ACTIVITIES: The carrying out of the three phases of the MA&D, despite some interruptions due to funding problems, conducted to good results. The preliminary phase of MA&D helped to identify the socio-economic situation of communities living within and around the WHS. Using participatory processes, four villages were selected for the project implementation: Longdong village, Heishui village, Yangliu village, and Liangfeng village.
In the first phase, villagers were trained, market investigations were carried out and exercises were conducted in order to prioritize products. From a large initial list of products, the villagers short-listed products such as processed (organic) tea, huanglian, medicinal plant, and tourism services.
During the second phase, where products, markets and means of marketing were identified, the most promising products selected were fruit trees, organic tea, bitter bamboo shoots and eco-tourism.
The third phase, supporting the writing up of the enterprise development plans (EDP), included a survey of the business environment, village workshops for each product, and the formulation of action and financial plans.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND OUTCOMES: Liangfeng village started up fruit trees and tourism enterprises. Longdong and Heishui villages, interested in organic tea and bamboo shoots, faced a lack of investments needed for a processing plant. These potential products also had to be eliminated because of policy restrictions. Yangliu village developed a business plan for Huanglian, a medicinal plant. The business depended on farmers supplying products on credit in order to reduce the capital needs, but as profit margins were not sufficiently high, the farmers decided it would not be a realistic enterprise.
The implementation of the project demonstrated that enterprise development in very poor forest resource-dependent communities must have seed capital investment funds. Furthermore, if a project hopes to identify economic incentives for villagers living around protected areas, it must address policy issues with local authorities from the start, ensure that there are realistic expectations and recognize that the list of potential products will be restricted by limits on harvesting and agricultural production.
The project did significantly impact on tourism and community based enterprise development in Sichuan. Documenting and disseminating the experiences and tools used in Mt. Emei Project is important, thus the Chinese version of the MA&D-field manual was devised including all tools used to end of 2004. Manuals were also distributed to Winrock International, an international organization that is implementing the Sustainable Tibetan Communities project in Ganzi County.
The Central Government has favoured conservation practices directed by local authorities. Given the scarce presence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the province, the partnership strategy was effective in creating synergies among different government divisions with project experience.
Village-level forestry staff demonstrated their ability to plan sustainable enterprises, including using tools for participatory village assessment and financial analysis. The MA&D process was successful in using a step-by-step approach at the community level to build the understanding of field staff and farmers about elements in the planning of small-scale enterprises.
RELATED LINKS AND DOCUMENTS: A case study on the Chinese experience in community-based commercial enterprise has been developed (please click here), which can be utilised as an instrument to share knowledge and stimulate discussion about projects implemented in World Heritage Sites and protected areas.