China has 195 million hectares of forests, which represent approximately 20% of the surface area of its territory, two-thirds of which are natural forests and a third artificial forests. Young forests account for 67% of existing forest areas, with 40% of the volume of timber. Over the past thirty years, considerable efforts have been made to replant artificial forests, with 59 billion trees planted. However, the per capita forest area in China stands at less than a quarter of the world average level (0.62 hectares) and the volume of timber per hectare is also lower. Consequently, there is considerable scope for optimizing these reforestation activities, in particular by improving the management of these areas.
The promotion of sustainable forest management is a priority for China’s State Forestry Administration (SFA). The introduction of certification systems is considered as one of the most effective ways of promoting improvements in forest management and the adoption of best practices. A number of initiatives have been launched to this end, in order to raise the awareness of logging companies and encourage them to engage in this process (publication of technical guides on forest certification schemes, on the accreditation of independent companies to conduct the audit, and on pilot projects for international certification). Finally, reforestation is an important area for the fight against climate change, in a context whereby over a third of greenhouse gas emissions are due to agricultural and forestry activities.
The project provides for the following activities:
- the rehabilitation of 100,100 hectares of bamboo (which were badly damaged by the severe storms and snowfalls in early 2008),
- the plantation of 60,600 hectares of woody species (fir trees in particular and other endemic deciduous species),
- the construction of forest roads, the creation of a fire prevention network, capacity building for stakeholders (local communities, forestry cooperatives, State-owned companies, administration) with training sessions on good management practices,
- the international certification of sustainable forest management and valuing of forest carbon credits.
France has been engaged in an environmental accounting process for several years now, which has allowed it to develop strong national expertise. The project feasibility study conducted initial work on recording the project’s economic and environmental benefits (water and soil conservation, carbon storage…). The project may provide an opportunity for methodological reflection and a Franco-Chinese dialogue on this subject, by mobilizing French institutional expertise and the technical expertise of the International Group of the National Forestry Office (ONF). It is also planned to develop a participatory production model with local communities to ensure they reap the environmental, social and economic benefits related to sound forest management.
The present project follows on from an initial AFD rehabilitation and restoration program in Yunnan and consolidates its action to support Chinese public policies. It implements pilot programs which contribute to economic development in rural areas and the fight against climate change. Hunan is a relatively poor forest province and is seeking to develop, while avoiding the traditional industrialization route followed by coastal regions. The province authorities consequently consider the economy created by forestry activities, particularly for bamboo, as one of the most promising ways forward. The project should reduce CO2 emissions by a conservatively estimated 1.7 million tons over a 30-year period. It will also improve soil and water conservation and create local jobs.