Economic integration and rural transformation
Ediger, Laura K.
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In China, recent changes in state policy related to land use have contributed to an increase in forest area. Although the national government is still directly involved in regulation of rural land use, farming households are increasingly integrated into local and regional market economies. This study uses a combination of satellite images and household interviews to investigate the patterns of the transition from agriculture to forest at the landscape and household levels. Analysis of Landsat images for two administrative villages in Yunnan Province reveals an expansion of forest area and consolidation of land cover types. Regression analysis based on data from household surveys confirms the importance of field location, with plots located further from a household more likely to be converted. The overall landscape pattern became less fragmented, as outlying areas were converted to forest and farmland became concentrated around the villages. In addition, household economic variables such as land and labor availability were correlated with levels of farmland conversion. In response to farmland loss, households became more economically integrated with local and regional markets for goods and labor, with temporary migration of household members an important part of household strategies. The adaptation of local livelihoods to state land use policies highlights the close linkages between the physical and economic landscape and demonstrates that rural household strategies are a crucial driver of environmental change. Although the state encourages rural residents to participate in landscape transformation by subsidizing the conversion of farmland, the broader economic opportunities for migration and agricultural diversification provide the context which enables or constrains the participation of farming households in government programs, thereby influencing long-term land use patterns.