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Water Source Protection, Livestock - Raising and Rural Livelihoods in Fujian (2012)

SU Shipeng, Institute for Sustainable Development, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University (Small Grant 2012)
This project has been examining the challenge of balancing environmental protection and health with rural livelihoods in a mountainous region of northern Fujian. The area provides a vital source of drinking water to downstream areas, but pollution from intensive livestock-rearing is increasingly contaminating water sources, threatening the ecosystem and human health. Addressing the problem is particularly difficult because it involves conflicts of interest between upstream and downstream areas.
The team is led by Su Shipeng, Dean of the School of Public Policy at the Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University in Fuzhou. He is an expert in public management. Other members of the team are experts in ecology, animal husbandry, environmental engineering and regional economics.
Fujian province is a major producer of pork—more than 1.5 million tons in 2012. But many pigs are raised in mountainous areas, and in relatively small facilities with no pollution control. As a result, livestock-rearing presents a threat to the safety of drinking water for downstream populations, as well as to the viability of other agricultural occupations. However, pig-raising is an attractive option for farmers in poor areas, because it requires relatively little labor and is not a highly skilled occupation. And because the residents of mountain villages are able to drink spring water themselves, the pollution of rivers and other surface water does not affect their own drinking water safety. They are therefore not particularly motivated to invest in pollution control. Because small pig farms are scattered in mountain areas, they are difficult for government agencies to track down and monitor. For these reasons, although the Fujian Provincial Regulations on the Protection of Watershed Environments, which came into effect on February 1 2012, clearly stipulates that it is forbidden to build new livestock-rearing facilities in water source areas or to expand existing facilities, the implementation of the policy has been weak.
Over the last two years the project has examined various aspects of the interaction between development, environment and health in this rural area. In its first two years, the project examined the severity of pollution from solid household waste, waste water and livestock-rearing, and the implementation of the “Comprehensive Management of the Rural Environment” (nongcun huanjing lianpian zhengzhi) policy. It found that although significant investments had been made in waste water treatment facilities and solid waste disposal, these were not based on an accurate estimate of the resident population and, in light of significant out-migration, investment was out of proportion with actual needs. In contrast, investment in facilities to treat animal waste, which is a growing problem, was much lower and insufficient to address the problem. Furthermore, because government officials and residents in upstream and downstream areas had very different interests and understandings of the problem, collaboration was minimal.
In the current phase the project will focus on better understanding the role of livestock-rearing in rural livelihoods, exploring the ways in which policies can provide greater incentive for farmers to reduce pollution. It will do this through an analysis of both stakeholder and farmer social networks in order to develop an integrated, network-based model for managing livestock-rearing in an ecologically sustainable way.

For more information, contact SU Shipeng at