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Returning Farmland to Forests to Protect Farmers' Income

The policy of returning farmland to forest and grassland will in fact protect farmers' interests, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said yesterday in Beijing.

Li Yucai, deputy director of the SFA, told a news briefing that the adjustment was in line with the twin goals of strengthening local ecosystems and helping farmers make sustainable livings.

Li said the government would continue to provide subsidies in grain as well as cash for farmers who have converted their land into forest, to compensate their loss of income.

In detail, in the Yangtze River basin and southern areas, farmers can get 150 kg of grain every year per mu (15 mu is equal to 1 hectare). And in the Yellow River basin and northern areas, farmers can get 100 kg of grain every year per mu.

Besides grain, farmers can receive a direct financial subsidy of 105 yuan (US$14) in the Yangtze River basin and southern areas every year per mu and 70 yuan in the Yellow River basin and northern areas, in addition to 20 yuan annually per mu, which all farmers involved in the green project receive.

The subsidy term will be geared to what kind of vegetation the farmland has been converted to.

Additional funds will also be channeled to major reforestation areas to maintain basic grain farmland for rural households, as well as provide rural energy sources and pay for forestry maintenance.

The farmland reforestation plan was launched in 1999. It has so far converted 24.3 million hectares of fragile farmland on hillsides into forests, and affected more than 124 million farmers.

"About 64 percent of farmers involved in the project now live in areas of relatively good natural conditions," Li said. "They have other income sources and do not rely on the subsidy alone.

(China Daily October 11, 2007)

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