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Places We Protect: Dayaoshan National Nature Reserve


Over the past five decades the Chinese government has designated more than 2,500 nature reserves across the country. Covering 15 percent of China’s total land area, these reserves have the potential to play a vital role in protecting endangered species, ecosystems and natural resources. The Conservancy is working with Chinese government agencies to train reserve managers to effectively manage, patrol and monitor reserves, develop ecotourism and address the needs of people living in and around the reserves, which are off-limits to human activity.

In the south of China, at the headwaters of the Pearl River lies one of these reserves, Dayaoshan — a subtropical forest isolated high in the mountains that provides habitat for many endangered species and is a source of vital water to Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Poverty Amongst Riches

In many ways Dayaoshan is rich. It is rich in biodiversity, with one of the highest number of plant species in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. It is also rich in water that feeds the Pearl River and, in turn, the booming cities in the Pearl’s lower watershed. But these ecological riches do not translate into financial wealth for the overwhelming majority of the people living in or around Dayaoshan, nearly 22 percent of whom are living in poverty. Unfortunately this is not a problem specific to Dayaoshan — the majority of China’s poor people live in and around nature reserves.

The creation of the nearly 65,000-acre Dayaoshan Nature Reserve in 1982 sheltered local land and protected the headwaters of the Pearl River, but it also reduced opportunities for the local minority people to utilize the natural resources on which they had depended for generations.

Improving Livelihoods to Ensure Conservation

To achieve dual goals of conservation and poverty reduction, the Conservancy initiated the Dayaoshan Project in late 2007 and is working with the Guangxi Poverty Alleviation Office, Jinxiu County Poverty Alleviation Office and Dayaoshan Nature Reserve Management Bureau to increase effective nature reserve management, improve community livelihoods, and reduce rural poverty.

To achieve these goals the Conservancy is:

  • Developing alternative livelihoods (tea and medicinal plantations, mushroom cultivation and eco-tourism) to generate additional income opportunities.
    • The project has assisted local villagers in developing nearly 50 acres of tea plantations in six pilot villages.
       
  • Creating alternative rural energy to reduce reliance on natural resources.
    • The project has provided funds and technology to install 67 solar water heater units and 42 fuel wood-saving stoves.
       
  • Improving self-development and environmental awareness among villagers and communities.
    • The project provided funds and expertise to hold training workshops for over 400 local villagers on village conservation and development, as well as tea plantation management. The workshops have also yielded conservation and community development plans for each pilot village.
       
  • Enhancing the capabilities of the Dayaoshan Nature Reserve Management Bureau to effectively manage the nature reserve.
    • The Conservancy provided funds and assisted Dayaoshan Nature Reserve Management Bureau in completing a baseline survey on Dayaoshan’s biodiversity to achieve a better understanding of natural resources in the reserve.

In Dayaoshan — and in all of the 51 model nature reserves in China — the Conservancy is finding successful approaches to balance ecological conservation with poverty reduction. These approaches can then be applied at other nature reserves in China and bring much needed benefits to many more communities. 

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