Development and testing of a sustainable environmental restoration policy on eradicating the poverty trap in China’s Changting County

Cao, S. X., et al., 2009. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Original research (primary data)
View External Publication Link


It is widely accepted that environmental degradation and poverty are linked and that conservation and poverty reduction should be tackled together. However, success with integrated strategies has been elusive. Here, we present the results of a study that illustrates how development that combines environmental and economic perspectives and that provides appropriate compensation to affected populations can improve both nature and society, thereby eradicating the “poverty trap.” The results show that if we cannot improve the livelihood of local residents, we will be unable to restore degraded environments when state-owned property is transferred to private ownership to encourage better management by residents. In contrast, measures to eliminate poverty, combined with the development of green enterprises that improve the livelihoods of private land owners in the long term, is the precondition for successful ecological restoration.

Case studies

Basic information

  • Case ID: INT-219-1
  • Intervention type: Mixed created/non-created habitats
  • Intervention description:

    ** labeled as mixed because also seems to involve protection of remaining natural forests farmers received living subsidies that compensated them for abandoning the harvesting of forests (i.e., reimbursement for their loss of access to the wood) and for their efforts in ecosystem restoration…To increase the net income of farmers and encourage them to use organic fertilizers to improve plant growth, the government encouraged the planting of fruit trees by providing compensation of RMB 1500/ha. (This had the additional benefit of providing an incentive for farmers to protect the trees since, unlike forest tree species, the continuing presence of the fruit trees provided an ongoing source of food and cash income.)… The government also paid farmers RMB 30/day for planting trees or forage vegetation and provided tree seedlings or the seeds of forage species at no cost (Fig. S5). To reduce the cost of this program and improve the environmental restoration, the gov- ernment encouraged the transfer of land ownership to residents who were willing to plant trees and prohibited tree harvesting in all natural forests—with the exception of low-lying wasteland in hilly terrain where fruit trees could be planted (24). Other actions to ensure forest protection/restoration: “To compensate residents for their lost ability to harvest trees for fuel, subsidies were provided amounting to RMB 0.04 per lump of coal (25% of the local cost) for farmers who stopped cutting vegetation within 3 years and replaced their fuel wood consumption with coal consumption, and facilities were set up to produce this coal” “To move the farmers away from a form of forestry that focused on harvesting fuel wood, the government also encouraged the construction of infrastructure. or the production and use of methane-generation facilities for every household by providing compensation ranging from RMB 1000 for 8 m3 of capacity to RMB 1500 for 8 m3 of capacity” The above are part of “a new development policy in 2000 that was designed to promote both environmental conservation and poverty reduction.” Other agricultural component of the policy not coded for: “To encourage the raising of pigs and fish on this land, compensation of RMB 100 for each additional pig and RMB 15 000 for each 1-ha fish pond was provided (Fig. S4). In the study area, the fish ponds were intended to both encourage water conservation and provide a source of nutrition and income for residents.”

  • Landscape/sea scape ecosystem management: Yes
  • Climate change impacts Effect of Nbs on CCI Effect measures
    Biomass cover loss  Positive Biomass cover loss: vegetation cover (%), forest cover (%)
    Soil erosion  Positive Soil erosion: Area in which soil erosion was occurring (km2), Total soil erosion (Mt yr 1 yr 1)
  • Approach implemented in the field: Yes
  • Specific location:

    Changting County is located in western Fujian Province (25°18 40 to 26°02 05 N, 116°00 45 to 116°39 20 E). The program focused on 4 towns: Cewu, Hetian, Sanzhou, and Zhuotian

  • Country: China
  • Habitat/Biome type: Created forest | Temperate forests |
  • Issue specific term: Payment for Ecosystem Services


  • Notes on intervention effectivness: Effectiveness determined by “rigorous before-and- after comparisons” of outcome measures
  • Is the assessment original?: Yes
  • Broadtype of intervention considered: Not applicable
  • Compare effectivness?: No
  • Compared to the non-NBS approach: Not applicable
  • Report greenhouse gas mitigation?: No
  • Impacts on GHG: Not applicable
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on natural ecosystems: Yes
  • Impacts for the ecosystem: Positive
  • Ecosystem measures: Number of plant species per hectare
  • Assess outcomes of the intervention on people: Yes
  • Impacts for people: Positive
  • People measures: Increased employment rates
  • Considers economic costs: Yes
  • Economic appraisal conducted: No
  • Economic appraisal described:
  • Economic costs of alternative considered: No
  • Compared to an alternative: Not reported

Evaluation methodology

  • Type of data: Quantitative
  • Is it experimental: No
  • Experimental evalution done: Not applicable
  • Non-experimental evalution done: Empirical case study
  • Study is systematic: