Feeding the world’s largest population is one of the most pressing challenges facing Chinese people. Forests as well as trees on farms are a direct source of food for rural people, providing both staple foods and supplemental foods such as tea, fruits, edible fungi, Chinese herbal medicines, wild meat and so on.
We selected Changting County (located in Fujian province, southern of China) to make a case study by interviewing local people, and make a household survey. We focused on exploring the relationship between forest and food security in different period of time. That is, how do the different economic-social development conditions in history shape the relationship between forests and food security?
From the year of 1950 to 1970,under the background of the founding of New China，the economic-social condition is unstable, the food supply has been shortage, and therefore become a realist ic social problem, especially in the time of The Great Famine (1959-1961). Forest products have been regarded as supplementary resources for food to relief the pressure of food security and forests also have been regarded as shelter for the poor rural people.
There has been a popular saying that “those living on a mountain get their living from the mountains; those living near a river get their living from the river ”which described that one has to make use of forest resources available to make a living. This is especially true for Changting County, which is a mountainous region, forests occupy almost 80% of the lands.
For the people in that remote county, in addition to the crops in the fields, the main source of food depends on the natural forest, the main source of firewood for cooking also depends on the natural forest. So the amount of forest product is very limited and unstable, can just reluctantly meet the needs of local people. Meanwhile, the market mechanism at that time is not mature, no free exchange market has been existed, most of forest products are eaten by them without trade for money. So at that period of time, natural forests are mainly existed, artificial forests is rarely existed.
From the year of 1980 to 1990, as China’s “Reform and Opening up” policy, the goods can be free flow, at the same time as the government investing heavily on rural infrastructure, traffic conditions in the mountains has been improved, providing favorable conditions for forest products transportation. In addition, with the implementation of “Three Fixes” Forestry policy, which allocates the right of forest management to household, villagers could have beneficial and use right of the forestland they own. So the villagers try to grow some of the economic forest, such as strawberry, chestnut, gingko. Besides eating by them, they also sell them in the nearby market.
After 21st century, China faces two major problems: one is the ecological demand, for example, the central government pushed Grain for Green Project, which lead to the decrease of arable land, and increase of forestland; second, changes in the structure of food, more people prefers a balanced nutrition of food. So the role of forest to insure food security cannot be looked down upon.
The market price of forest product such as edible mushrooms and Chinese herbal medicine continuously goes up, providing a commercial opportunity. The villagers also began to plant large amount of economic forest. As the demand of forest food diversifies, the species of trees also diversifies.
Blogpost and picture submitted by Tu Chengyue (Renmin University, China) – tuchengyue(at)foxmail.com
The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.
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