Arguments - Intervention Possibilities
much can be done to prevent loss of arable land in China. Modern technology and advanced
soil management methods provide great possibilities for maintaining a high level of soil
productivity despite intense cultivation. Methods are available to protect soils from
erosion and degradation, and to some extent it is even possible to revitalize already
||For instance, China is a
pioneer in combating desertification. The Chinese have used fixation techniques for mobile
sand dunes; narrow strip planting; windbreaks and shelter belts of grass, shrubs, and
trees; air seeding over shifting sand dunes; and combined agro-forestry cultivation.
Plantations for desertification control cover at least 10 million ha. The forest cover in
Northern China increased from about 7% in the 1970s to some 12% in the early 1990s. It was
estimated that the sheltering effect of these plantations helped to open up 1.3 million ha
of new farmland (FAO, 1997). The FAO has also estimated that China's national program for
combating desertification has helped to convert 100,000 ha of seriously desertified land
||The real problems, however,
are economic, administrative, and political. China's reforestation efforts, for instance,
have to be implemented in some 550 counties across 13 provinces. State-organized campaigns
to mobilize the masses for conservation measures and tree planting have not been
successful everywhere because in some cases they were not adapted to specific local
conditions and problems. This is a problem of all large-scale conservation efforts, not
just those in China. Such efforts are usually initiated, organized, and financed by the
national government, but the measures have to be implemented at the local level.
Much can happen along the long chain of command and control from the national planning
commission down to the village committee.
||To improve the efficiency of
conservation efforts, economic mechanisms must be implemented at the local level,
providing direct incentives for farmers to actively participate in reforestation
or erosion control programs. For instance, it is essential that afforestation for
desertification control is combined with fuelwood plantations to meet the energy needs of
local households, otherwise the farmers will simply cut down the protection trees to heat
their houses and cook their meals.
Efficient water erosion control is often hampered by the fact that the negative
consequences of erosion (such as siltation of reservoirs) are usually only felt downstream,
far away from the area that caused the problem. Soil conservation methods would certainly
be much more successful if the land were owned by the farmers. For instance, farmers would
be more motivated to prevent salinization of irrigated cropland through adequate leaching.
Arable Land: Trends
Impact Data Quality Prediction Error Intervention
Revision 2.0 (First revision published in 1999)
- Copyright © 2011 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved. (First revision: Copyright © 1999 by IIASA.)