GEOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH ›› 2010, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (8): 1510-1518.doi: 10.11821/yj2010080016

• Land Resource and Use • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Farmland change in Yan’an: The impact and acting mechanism of policies

ZHU Hui-yi, LU Chang-he   

  1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • Received:2009-08-30 Revised:2010-01-08 Online:2010-08-25 Published:2010-08-30


China has made great progress in reforestation since the 1990s. More than 686.25×104 hm2 of farmland was converted to forestland and pasture during the grain for green project, which led to some positive changes in ecological system, but did not influence national grain supply significantly. However, to preserve the achievement from expansion of farmland under increasing population pressure and economic development, some new institutional measures need to be taken based on a better understanding of regional farmland change. This paper, taking Yan’an region, one of the earliest test-regions for reforestation, as the study area, analyzes its farmland variation between 1978 and 2007 and studies the impact and acting mechanism of policies. Empirical analysis reveals that the reduction in farmland area was a long-term regional trend from 1978 to 2007 instead of a short-term trend dominated by grain for green policy. The reduction process can be identified into six periods according to yearly change rates, and each period of farmland change was affected by different institutional factors such as soil conservation projects, reforms of agriculture tax, subsidies for grain production and grain for green policy. Although there are different driving factors for different periods of farmland change, it is consistent that the changed farmland turned mainly into orchard land, forest land and pasture. The consistent conversion from farmland to orchard land results in the higher comparative benefit of orchard production, and its gradual change can be attributed to the gradual increase of farmers’ capability in investment. Moreover, the impact of an institutional factor on farmland change is determined by to what extent it changes comparative benefits of land use types and farmers’ capability. Comparative benefit and farmers’ capability seem to be the dominative factors in regional farmland change. Therefore, to preserve forest land and pasture which has low comparative benefit from the conversion to farmland, subsidization for reforestation should be continued for a short period. Meanwhile, long-term measures should be taken as soon as possible, which includes more labor transfer and economic benefit upgrading of forest and pasture through ecological tour, green production and guaranty of forest right.

Key words: farmland change, comparative benefit, farmer&rsquo, capability in investment, reforestation, Yan’an in China