Integrated Conservation and Development Projects in Caohai, China
It was in the 1980s and 1990s when Microcredit, a women empowering group of organizations has come to realize their goals for integrating in their program conservation and development of Caohai, China and some other places especially in the developed countries. Along with the national parks and reserves, economics has been linked with conservation and development. These projects are jointly known as the ICDPs or the Integrated Conservation and Development Projects. This project aims to lessen the use of natural resources in and around the vicinity of protected areas where the people of the local communities are present. These movements are considered as ways to bridge the gap between economic development efforts and environmental protection measures. This happens with the peaceful “coexistence” of the two supposedly opposing ideas that makes development in local communities as a tool to improve conservation. One way introduced to facilitate the goals of the organizations is to lower the reliance of the poor on natural supplies (Herrold-Menzies, 2006).
ICDPs are criticized for effectiveness, whether their programs achieved resource exploitation reduction with environmental protection being promoted (Herrold-Menzies, 2006; Herrold-Menzies, 2006, p. 383). Many researchers and practitioners have identified that the program set by the organization were not effective. This has resulted into negative outcomes, while still some studies noted that there are some places where positive impacts were observed which just show that the program is not a hundred percent ineffective and there are some sort of effectiveness, which included the minimization of cases of violence between the community and the reserve officials, creating also cooperation between the two parties. The project called Caohai Nature Reserve, which is a wetland in China (Southwesthern) providing wintering habitat for Grus nigricollis (a black necked crane) and other bird species is one of the projects mentioned. This aimed to design a plan to reduce the dependence of local farmers on the natural resources and provided a microcredit loan for them to be able to put up small-time businesses. The idea is as simple as a provision of other means to which the farmers are able to earn money instead of taxing the natural resources around the area of concern. Other concerns for this project were giving opportunities for the beneficiaries for socialization, travel and of course work.
Because of the largely observable wildlife exploitation in national parks during the period of development during 1970s and 1980s, several concerned practitioners began criticizing the traditional ways of nature conservation. This includes isolation of the nature reserves from the community who depended on these resources for their livelihood. To act on this kind of conflict, integration of conservation to the goal of developing the economy was integrated. This paved the way for the alleviation of impoverishment and encouragement of support from the local community for participation towards nature preservation. ICDP was successful in coupling community development and environmental protection, with which is applicable to a wide variety of diverse form of components in promoting businesses to serve the tourists, revenue sharing from tourism and hunting, rendering other forms of harvesting income, and the plans to create infrastructures such as roads, educational establishments and health services centers (Menzies, 2006).
The Guizhou Environmental Protection Bureau, together with the Caohai Nature Reserve, Trickle up program, and the International Crane Foundation formed a response force against violent confrontations from the local people when the reserve managers are trying to enforce such regulatory measures. This ICPD resulted to a violent protest of fishermen when their illegal fishing equipment and devices were destroyed, sometime in the 1980s as part of the enforcement. Death threats were even rampant towards the nature reserve employees, and some were just beaten by the people of the locale. The Chinese government organizations were tapped, together with two U.S.-based NGOs to have specialists towards both economic development and crane conservation that started in 1993. They began with the modest budget, and encourage the use of well-equipped Chinese experts in place of foreign consultants who are at that time too expensive to be paid with. This was conceptualized in order to mix community development with conservation enterprise with the highest possible participation of the community. Same goals were aimed for this project, with the community having been developed in the infrastructural aspect, and the unique one is the implementation of environmental education (Herrold-Menzies, 2006, p. 383). This one seems to be the most important of all because understanding the importance of nature preservation before having to take any action is necessary so that the locality shall be more appreciative of the program and at the same time more cooperative and participative on what the program tries to impart.
The whole world is aware of the problems regarding nature preservation. The whole world is also susceptible to conflicts, which makes nature preservation as a universal problem. In European countries, resource-dependent peasants aggressively reacted to the protection offered by the programs for their own lands’ sake. The same thing in Asian countries happened, where colonial governments resisted the instructions because of their patronage to the so-called scientific forestry, when they fitted local communities with this kind of method. The traditionally used resources were taken away from them upon the installment of national parks and nature reserves. In connection to this, removal of the inhabitants in that locale also took place. Absence proper education resulted to the execution of the plan, but the purpose of the plan was not explained to them, thus making the parks and reserves surrounded by people who are ignorant of the purpose. This also made them think that they are not included in the plan, and they cannot derive any benefit from it, and as a result, no extension of support from them was arrived at.
The Implementation of ICDPs
The Trickle Up Program is the first step for the farmers around the Caohai lake need to undergo, for them to enter a wider and more beneficial programs under the ICDP. In the TUP, they are prepared to be business-oriented and business-knowledgeable people that will help them in conceptualizing businesses, in which they will prove themselves if they can manage and sustain enterprises (Herrold-Menzies, 2006). In this program, the grants are given to them, which means they are not giving back what small amount of money they spent for the business they were able to establish. Below are the more detailed and described steps in the implementation of the ICDPs:
The pioneering stage in the execution of the Caohai plan began with selection of the grantees of the Trickle Up Program (TUP) in the rural community. This depended on the size of that community where the program is planned to be worked on. The system of selection was on the basis of the poorest among the poor, which took on the average of 10 individuals per community. The selected individuals were then allowed to choose two adults to work with in a group. Being a family member of the individual is the primary criterion for selection of the adults. The donors for this project envisioned that upon giving these grants to the recipients, they will be able to progress in terms of economic situation, attain a significant amount of capital, and develop the necessary skills to be candidates for the next level of the community development program which is the microcredit loan program. In the presence of the TUP grants, the fortunate households can acquire experience in running a business, and eventually be able to connect with their neighbors, to show that it is possible to have succeeded in managing enterprises (Herrold-Menzies, 2006, p. 392).
The Second Step
Establishment of the Community Trust Funds (CTF) or the revolving microcredit funds is of course a crucial part to make possible the implementation of the project. This not only targeted the poorest of the poor who are covered in the TUP, but all the farmers, regardless of the economic status are covered by the CTF funds. The Guizhou Environmental Protection Bureau and the other two institutions concerned with the funding usually provided about 100 to 200 yuan per selected household for each CTF. The categories under CTF varied from sizes of 10 households with 1000 to 2000 yuan, to a hamlet-size fund with size 80 thousand or higher. Each of the community trust funds decides on the amount of money the affiliates are allowed to have a loan of at one time, the time the loan has to be paid, and the rate of interest to be applied. When a CTF member pays under the duration of 3 to 6 months, with loans of 200 to 1000 yuan, they are charged with 1% to 3% interest per month. Using a typical 10-membered CTF, with an assumption of 2% interest rate for a 3-month period, assuming that four members borrowed 250 yuan for a three month period, a 15 yuan interest shall be charged to them. The four other priority members are then capable to borrow the next set of money. In some instances, CTF members may opt to extend the loan period to give more time for the borrowers to obtain the amount they have to give back. In effect, the interest acquired from the borrowers will accumulate which can be allotted to other community projects or make additional loan transactions (Herrold-Menzies, 2006, p. 392).
To enter qualification in either TUP or CTF, an “Environmental Protection Contract” must be signed. The contract is composed of their own promissory environmental protection measures to follow, each specifying also the kind of task each member is going to perform. An example of this is the rule that no farmer will kill any birds or destroy wetlands. Wild geese have market wherein additional compensations can be gained.
Included in the implementation is the emphasis of the kind of business that the participants will allot their loan for. Reserve officials are responsible for the obtainment of the decisions to be made by the borrowers. This ensures that the farmers will certainly designate their money for something that they are interested into, thus having them the confidence to perform well in whatever dealings they are to prefer and develop their skills on the kind of transactions they decided upon. Many of the participants responded in interviews, saying that the program have permitted them to perform tasks that they could not have ended with otherwise. Handicraft production, stove-making, food processing, raising livestock, carpentry, etc. are just some of the possibilities where the money loaned can be allotted for. The immediacy of the active markets in the south side of the lake of Caohai (East Mountain) and the Weining on the north side are some of the spots offering enormous amounts of opportunities for selling new products for the entrepreneurs. In the year 2000, statistics mentions that in excess of 500 small groups usually composed of three family members, and about 60 CTF groups were verified to have been established (Herrold-Menzies, 2006, p. 393).
The community development program included also some other minor components such as outreach projects for school building, improvements on roads, and scholarship for girls to attend schools. The collaboration of the Caohai Nature Reserve and the International Crane Foundation has produced numerous developmental projects on school infrastructures. It was only the funding projects that were able to allocate such a fund for the establishment of these educational institutions. The local government was not able to initialize such an act, but with the help of the funding system as the program was implemented, people of the Sunny Pass Mountain was helped with their problems regarding the farness of their school, which is two kilometers away, with all the flooding because of the rainy season at that time. The funding obtained from the interest was effectively decided upon by the borrowers to be allocated to the payments for the school teachers.
As we can see, the kind of implementation applied by the reserve employees showed the idea of participatory democracy combined with neo-liberal understones. This also presented to them incorruptible entrepreneurship because the program allowed them to experience and express the entrepreneur within them without the influence from the corrupt state (Herrold-Menzies, 2006).
The format of the microcredit programs in Caohai has less meeting activities in contrast to other microcredit programs available, as described by Sun. The farmers did not have to meet in order to pay the installments because loan agents were there to facilitate the collection. They do not even have to go to banks or other financial institutions to give their paybacks. All that the borrowers had to do was to maintain their businesses and make sure that the funds will circulate in the CTF. One weakness is the absence of a formal financial institution to handle their money. They would always wait for the next meeting to introduce those who want to have participation with their group, and also need to wait whenever they wanted to acquire some money for the expenses. This made the transaction more troublesome and time consuming, and thus is a disadvantage of seldom meetings. This is also cumbersome for the bookkeeper because of the length of the meetings and the long records needed to be maintained and monitored (Herrold-Menzies, 2006).
Assessments on the results regarding the implementation of the plan resulted into positive and negative results. Programs not dealing much on the reduction of the resources of the participating communities presented such a positive output, where the violence was transformed into cooperation (Herrold-Menzies, 2006). These funding activities in Caohai were useful in some sort, and further modification of the implementation procedures may help for the simplification of the tasks of the borrowers in terms of money acquisition and payment. More to say, this concept awards the participating community a win-win scenario, helping both the nature conservation and the economic development of the people on that locality. Educating the people is a crucial stage to start with, but after accomplishing this task, huge participation can be expected from them, and they would happily say that the program gave them so much, as well as the nature itself would be benefited.
Herrold-Menzies, M. (2006). Gender, Microcredit and Conservation at Caohai: An Attempt to Link Women, Conservation and Development [Electronic Version]. Retrieved July 10, 2008, from http://www.idrc.ca/fr/ev-126265-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html
Herrold-Menzies, M. (2006). Integrating Conservation and Development: What We Can Learn From Caohai, China. The Journal of Environment and Development (15), 36.