News Article

People for Environment
China Today
/ Categories: News

People for Environment

Li Xinrui used to be a cattle herder. He is now a resident of Guanba Valley, Pingwu County in Sichuan, the southwestern province in China famed for its pandas and spicy cuisine, and has a different occupation. He’s a bee keeper, making the switch when Sichuan saw a drive by the government as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to conserve the forests in the region that are home to the bears adored worldwide.

“Local communities are the most important force in conservation. Indigenous people’s participation is key to the success of the cause,” Peng Kui, manager for ecosystem conservation and community development program of the Global Environmental Institute (GEI), told China Today.

The Beijing-based GEI is an NGO working for biodiversity conservation alongside policymakers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and local communities. Its work in Sichuan goes back to 2005 at the Fengtongzhai National Nature Reserve where the first giant panda was found in 1869. The task was to wean local communities off felling trees and overgrazing by finding other means of livelihood for them. GEI began to introduce the concept of Community Conservation Concession Agreement (CCCA), which gives local governments, businesses, communities or individuals some concessions to partially develop the natural resources amid efforts to avoid overexploitation. An area of 7,000 hectares came under this agreement to mitigate the damage caused to the ecosystem and biodiversity.

Providing New Alternatives

GEI provided training to the locals to help them develop eco-friendly operations, such as breeding bees and rabbits, and a community fund and a cooperative were established to help them start their business. Some of the residents were hired as forest guards to run daily patrols to prevent illegal logging and poaching.

In 2014, GEI took the CCCA model to Qinghai Province in northwest China. This time, they worked in the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve, the first and largest national park in China, and the source of China’s three major rivers, the Yellow River, the Yangtze, and the Lancang. The reserve, with a planned area of 190,700 square kilometers, has the most unique high-altitude natural landscape in the world and the most concentrated plateau biodiversity. GEI’s work was to set up a voluntary patrol with the locals to prevent wildlife poaching and monitor the water quality of the rivers. In addition to the usual modus operandi, it also helped develop Tibetan handicrafts and cultural products since Qinghai is one of the four places outside Tibet Autonomous Region with a large presence of the Tibetan ethnic minority.

More than 18,000 local people have been granted qualifications to work as rangers, which has increased the average annual household income by RMB 21,600 (US $3,003). Peng said 10 percent of the proceeds from local ecotourism goes to the community fund, which supports the daily patrol. “It is a mutually reinforcing process and a way to transform clear waters and green mountains into invaluable assets. This model aligns with the national strategy of advancing ecological progress and also encourages local residents to participate in ecological protection,” he said.

Chinese Model in Southeast Asia

Since the first success in Sichuan, GEI has taken the CCCA model to more than 10 Chinese provincial-level regions, and also farther to several Southeast Asian countries: Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

In Vietnam, for example, many rural communities lacked electricity despite hydropower projects on the Mekong, which flows through their areas. The hydropower went to the national grid. GEI introduced biogas and other energy facilities. It also worked with the government to conduct research on the impact of industries, such as mining, and agriculture, and draft policies on environmental protection.

In Thanbayarkhon, a village in Myanmar’s Bago Region, the Beijing-based NGO is conducting a clean energy project. The village had no electricity; so GEI introduced solar power technology and donated 193 biomass cook stoves, 180 solar lights, and a solar-powered water pump. It also helped the community with a forestry planting program. The GEI’s program in the village won recognition from the government of both China and Myanmar. It also attracted material support worth RMB 20 million from the South-South Cooperation Fund on Climate Change. “We act as a bridge, bringing the Chinese experience to local communities,” Peng said.

GEI worked with four NGOs in Myanmar and scale up the CCCA model in 16 communities. As a result, local residents stopped illegal hunting and logging. It also helped set up community funds to develop special ecological industries, such as hog and crab breeding, coffee planting, and making bamboo handicrafts. In 2019, this model was expanded to 27 local communities.

In 2021, GEI and social organizations from eight countries established the East and Southeast Asia Community Conservation Network to promote international exchanges and cooperation. The CCCA model was then expanded to mangrove communities in Indonesia and the Philippines, and communities in the border region between China and Laos, sharing Chinese solutions to ecological conservation with more developing countries.

Over the past decade, China has launched a series of innovative initiatives for ecological protection and low-carbon economic development. At its third plenary session in 2013, the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China first proposed the strategy of establishing a national park system. Subsequently, a pilot program was carried out in 10 areas.

At the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) held in Kunming, southwest China’s Yunnan Province, in 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the country’s first list of national parks. The total area placed under protection of the national park system reached 230,000 square kilometers, covering nearly 30 percent of the key terrestrial wildlife species found in China. The national park system protects the local landscape system and the integrity of the ecological processes.

Public Partnership

As one of the countries with the richest natural resources in the world, China plays an important role in global ecological protection. In recent years, in addition to government institutions leading the protection work, more and more individuals are participating as well, giving rise to a new model of sustainable development.

With social evolution and improvement of their living standards, people have become more concerned about environmental issues and more aware of the need to protect the natural environment. The idea of ecological protection has been incorporated in education programs. The volunteer system has improved, with the number of registered volunteers at 220 million today. The number of nature education institutions has also increased to a figure somewhere between 4,000 and 20,000 in the last two years. They host science education lectures, and activities including camping and nature exploration tours.

Social organizations are also developing rapidly, introducing innovative ideas, driving financial investment, and conducting exchanges between domestic and foreign organizations. The public take part in ecological protection through a variety of ways, from volunteering to buying eco-friendly products.

GEI Working with Partners 

The work of the Global Environmental Institute has been strengthened by its cooperation with other organizations. 

In 2017, it worked with 23 Chinese social welfare organizations to establish an alliance for the protection of China’s territorial land. In 2019, it joined eight organizations to launch the Civil Society Alliance for Biodiversity Conservation. It also brought its programs and initiatives for environmental protection to the COP15 in Kunming. Thanks to concerted efforts by various parties, the CCCA model was included in the master plan for the national park system and also the guidelines for the building of a nature reserve system. 

China TodayShen Yi

Other posts by China Today
Contact author
blog comments powered by Disqus

Contact author