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The role of forest-related income in rural livelihoods : the case of bamboo in Guangxi, China

Hogarth, Nicholas John (2014). The role of forest-related income in rural livelihoods : the case of bamboo in Guangxi, China. PhD Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

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Author Hogarth, Nicholas John
Title The role of forest-related income in rural livelihoods : the case of bamboo in Guangxi, China
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2014
Thesis Type PhD
Subjects 0701 - Agriculture, Land and Farm Management
Abstract A distinct lack of understanding about household-level forest-livelihood interactions represents a significant barrier to effectively incorporate forestry into China's poverty alleviation strategy. This thesis aims to improve understanding of household-level forest-livelihood interactions using a case study focused on smallholder production of bamboo in a mountainous and impoverished county in southern China. Three overarching research questions were addressed: 1) what is the role of forest-related income in household economies and rural development? 2) how does bamboo contribute to household income and rural livelihoods? and 3) what are the links between smallholder bamboo management practices, productivity, income, and livelihoods? These questions were addressed using primary socio-economic data collected from 240 households, bamboo management data, subsistence-use inventories, and biophysical surveys.

Forest-related income played a very important role, with a 31.5% average contribution, predominantly cash from bamboo shoots and other NTFPs (with very little from timber or natural forest). Forest income was important at all income levels, although lower income households were more dependent than higher income households, who had significantly higher off-farm income and more land. Bamboo was utilized for a wide range of subsistence purposes (on farm, construction, food, fuel), and was the most valuable individual cash income source in half of the study villages, while the other half had very little bamboo income. Inadequate bamboo management practices limited productivity and the associated income, and bamboo's potential contribution to poverty alleviation.

Findings demonstrate the need for more empirical household-level analyses of livelihoods to improve practice and policy for rural development and poverty alleviation in China. Forest-based development or poverty interventions should focus on improving the absolute income of forest dependent poor, and focus at the household-level so that benefits reach those who need them most. When off-farm income opportunities are limited, improvements to on-farm income earning activities - such as bamboo management - is one way to potentially improve livelihoods and reduce poverty.

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