Collective forest farm mode enables Beijing to improve forest management and maintenance, promote employment of farmers

(Source: People’s Daily Online)

Photo shows a collective forest farm in Tongzhou District, Beijing. (Photo/He Yong)

Beijing has seen significant improvements in the management and maintenance of its forests since taking the lead in the country to shift the responsibility for its ecological forests from companies to collectives in 2018.

Since 2012, the city has launched two rounds of afforestation projects, adding more than two million mu (about 133,333 hectares) of forests and brought about notable growth in the carrying capacity of the city’s ecological environment.

In 2018, Beijing decided to try the mode of collective forest farming mainly in plains and shallow mountainous areas. So far, the city has established 96 new collective forest farms in 94 townships of 11 districts, including Tongzhou District and Chaoyang District.

Providing 16,038 local jobs, the forest farms are responsible for the management and maintenance of 2.1 million mu of collective ecological forests in 1,770 villages.

Led by the local government and funded by local collective enterprises or rural collective economic organizations, the new collective forest farms represent a new type of collectively-owned forestry businesses that maintain, protect, manage, and promote the sustainable use of collective ecological forests, according to Yang Yanfeng, head of the main forestry station of Tongzhou District. The new mode works on the basis of separate ownership, contractual, and management rights for forests, Yang noted.

The collective forest farm mode can guarantee a management and maintenance team featuring stable, long-term, and convenient services. They adopt a strict performance management system and are able to ensure earnest implementation of various measures, such as adjusting the density of trees, filling gaps in forests with new seedlings, fertilizing the soil, enriching species, and preventing pests and diseases, thus significantly improving the management and protection of forests, said Chen Junqi, head of the department of forestry reform and development of Beijing Municipal Forestry and Parks Bureau.

Forests of the new collective forest farms have shown a more than 8.9 percent higher yearly increment in the growth of trees and a 12.6 percent higher species richness than those maintained and managed by other entities, according to an investigation.

Management and maintenance services provided by companies have been short-term, for-profit, and lacked continuity, conflicting with the need for ecological forest management and maintenance services that are long-term, benefit the public, and involve local farmers, pointed out Wang Jinzeng, head of the ecological restoration department of the Beijing Municipal Forestry and Parks Bureau.

The problem has been effectively solved by the new collective forest farm mode, Wang said, adding that while taking care of collective ecological forests, collective forest farms can use forest resources to carry out educational activities for science popularization.

By improving forest management and maintenance, the new mode has brought tangible benefits to farmers in relevant districts.

Tongzhou District, an administrative district in Beijing with a relatively large volume of plain ecological forest resources, has actively recruited local farmers for its nine local collective forest farms that operate nearly 250,000 mu of forests.

Liu Qiang, a 35-year-old resident of the district who returned to his hometown in Huoxian Township last year, has become the leader of the No. 3 team of the new collective forest farm of Huoxian Township. The team is responsible for more than 8,200 mu of forests, the largest area of forests among those taken care of by the three teams of the new collective forest farm.

There are over 500 forest rangers like Liu working in 26,000 mu of forests for the collective forest farm of Huoxian Township.

The latest statistics suggest that there were 5,661 people employed by collective forest farms in Tongzhou District in August of this year, among whom 5,092 were local people, according to Gao Qiong, deputy head of the forestry and parks bureau of the district.

In addition to social-insurance premium payments, collective forest farms in the district have paid 447 million yuan ($63.42 million) in salaries to employees during the past two years, said Gao.