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Root and branch reform helps raise farmers' incomes

By Hou Liqiang and Hu Meidong | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-10 07:14

Local opposition Root and branch reform helps raise farmers' incomes

About 20 percent of the villagers opposed the redistribution of resources, and some even lodged complaints against Li with the county government because they thought the move would result in the erosion of collectively-owned assets.

One person who stood by Li was Yan Jinjing, deputy director of the Fujian Forestry Administration who was the local Party chief at the time. "As there was no experience of, or policy for, the reform of forest ownership we could have chosen to do nothing. But the reforms were related to people's interests, and it was our responsibility to protect those interests," said Yan, who found himself under great pressure because failure could result in even greater deforestation.

When villagers discussed how to distribute the assets, a number of wealthy outsiders contacted Li and promised to reward him if he sold some of the forest to them. Li refused.

"The villagers had lived off the mountains for generations. If they didn't even own a small area of the mountain, it would be hard for them to make a living," he said.

With the help of about 10 officials from the county government, a plan was eventually drafted that satisfied the villagers. At the end of 2001, the villagers received ownership certificates for the sections of forest they had been allocated.

In April 2002, the county government began to roll out the reform, known as the Collective Forestry Ownership System, across the county, despite the fact that the higher level of government had not authorized the move.

The reform won support from Xi when he visited Wuping in June that year. During his visit, the then-governor said: "The reform of the forestry system is on the right track. It should be put forward in a down-to-earth way, so the people will benefit."

He also said the reforms should follow the example of the Household Responsibility System, which was introduced in the 1980s and allocated land to individual farmers via contracts. They were allowed to either sell surplus produce at market rates or keep it for their own use.

The reform also protected Wuping's ecosystem. According to Li, before the redistribution of resources, forest fires were common because the villagers had no vested interest in the woodland and few helped to put out fires. Once the reform had been implemented, however, they began to take better care of their assets.

"After the reforms, there were no more forest fires because the villagers became more cautious about where they lit fires to ensure their assets weren't damaged," he said.

According to the county government, almost 47,667 hectares of trees have been planted since 2002, equal to the total area planted between 1977 and 2002. Now, the county's forestry coverage rate is almost 80 percent, up from 76.8 percent in 2001.

Yan said Xi's support at the most challenging time in the reform process was "decisively significant" for its success.

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