1 June 2002 - 31 May 2003
Social Change in the Econmic Transition of Livelihoods: Voices from the Upland Mountain Community in Southwestern China
 
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<FONT face="Tahoma, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">The term “livelihood” was first used as an important concept for development in the early 1990s towards understanding the relation between human beings, society and nature. The concept is defined as follows: “A livelihood comprises people, their capabilities and their means of living, including food, income and assets. Tangible assets are resources and stores, and intangible assets are claims and access” (by Chambers and Conway in 1991). Rural livelihoods that are diverse and dynamic are also transformed during a process of social, political and economic transformation (Kearney, 1996; Preston, 1998; Slater, 2002).<BR><BR>During the past decade, some common patterns of social and political transformation in Southeast Asia have been emerging following rapid economic growth and integration in the global market economy although the rate and timing of the transformation varies among countries. The implications of these ongoing transformations for natural resources and environmental management -through changes in land tenure and resource-use rights to stricter controls on environmental pollution are potentially profound (Bryant, 1998a; Suparb Pasong, 2000). The dynamics between the livelihood transformation and the social, political and economic transformation requires more empirical research that could contribute towards global sustainable development strategies (Brown, 2002; Cornia, 2001).<BR><BR>The world’s mountain areas are rich in cultural and biological diversity interlinked with the rural livelihoods in mountainous areas that are based largely on these natural resources (B.L.Barham, 1997; Shaw, 1995). In China, most of the 32,800 known plant species and 4,400 animal species grow in the mountainous areas. About 90% of forestlands in China are found in mountainous areas that comprise 80% of the country’s total. The forests provide non-timber forest products (NTFPs) such as plants, oil, herbs, medicine, rattan and food for both rural people in the mountains and urban residents. Traditionally, the harvest of NTFPs is crucial for the livelihood of the mountain peoples for their food security as well as to supplement agricultural production.<BR><BR>At present, the “great economic transformation” from centralized planning to a market-driven economy is taking place in China after the government began implementing a strategic “open door policy” since 1983. The successful agricultural reform in rural areas called for “Household Responsibility” using the contracted private system in definite periods instead of the former collective commune system. The transformation of land and forest use and tenure is bringing market forces to the rural mountain areas. The traditional livelihoods of rural communities are being challenged by the economic transformation in this period and also causing a chain of effects on government policies as well as on social, cultural, and ideological aspects of rural communities.<BR><BR>A case study of rural villages in Jinuo nationality in Xishuangbanna Dai Nationality Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province in southwestern China, an upland mountain area comprising diverse ethnic cultures that live in, and depend upon, the area’s rich tropical forest, provides an understanding of the social changes in this “great economic transformation” in China. The study is based on the hypothesis that the rural upland livelihood transformation is a dynamic process that is continously interacting and being interacted upon by social, economic, political and cultural factors.<BR><BR>The Jinuo are a fairly typical upland community with a small population officially identified as a ethnic nationality by the Chinese government in 1979 (Du, 1985). The communities have been living in the Jinuo Mountains along with the neighboring lowland community of the Dai ethnic people in the area that was subsequently declared as the Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve established in 1975. Over the centuries, the Jinuo people practice<BR>swidden farming and rely on the rich forest for collection of non-timber forest products for their livelihoods.<BR><BR>According to the primary ethnobotanical research in the Jinuo community, 252 plant species of NTFPs were recorded (Wang Jieru, 1995, 1998). The low yield of upland rice cultivation meant that there was an insufficient food supply, therefore a barter system was adopted between the Jinuo people and the Dai people. The Jinuo people use NTFPs to exchange for rice, salt and weaving cloth from the Dai people through their Laogen network.<BR><BR>Ever since 1996, when the government began promoting Xishuangbanna as a national tourism destination, the region has seen rapid economic growth driven by the expansion of tourism under the development policies of the provincial and prefecture<BR>governments. The expansion of the tourism market has resulted in a greater commercialisation and increase in consumption of non-timber forest products in the area by outsiders (Chen, 1999)<BR><BR>Around the issue of the rapid commercialization of the non-timber forest products, which forms the core of the transformation of the livelihoodsof the Jinuo community, this study attempts to understand the changing social implications brought by this livelihood transformation among the Jinuo people from two aspects: the changing gender identification in non-timber forest products collection and harvest; the changing social network hidden in the non-timber forest products barter system: the Laogen network between the Jinuo and Dai peoples.<BR><BR>The following questions are attempted to be answered through the case study in a Jinuo village and its three Dai neighbouring villages employing the methodologies of household economy survey, historical political analysis, participatory observation,and semi-structured interviews:<BR><BR>1. What kinds of key factors are causing the livelihood transformation in the Jinuo uplands?<BR>2. How has the gender identification in the collection and harvest of NTFPs changed?<BR>3. How has the Laogen network changed?<BR>4. What are the kinds of social and political implication of these changes?</FONT> 

 
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