, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 275-292

Reforestation programs in Southwest China: Reported success, observed failure, and the reasons why

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Ever since the disastrous floods of 1998, the Chinese government has used the Natural Forest Protection and Sloping Land Conversion Programs to promote afforestation and reforestation as means to reduce runoff, control erosion, and stabilize local livelihoods. These two ambitious programs have been reported as large-scale successes, contributing to an overall increase in China’s forest cover and to the stated goals of environmental stabilization. A small-scale field study at the project level of the implementation of these two programs in Baiwu Township, Yanyuan County, Sichuan, casts doubt upon the accuracy and reliability of these claims of success; ground observations revealed utter failure in some sites and only marginal success in others. Reasons for this discrepancy are posited as involving ecological, economic, and bureaucratic factors. Further research is suggested to determine whether these discrepancies are merely local aberrations or represent larger-scale failures in reforestation programs.