Behind better environmental services is a dream of a better world

By Robert Finlayson


Zhuangfang Yi of the World Agroforestry Centre’s China and East Asia Node recently presented a report about her and her colleagues’ work in China to the final workshop of the Rewards for, Use of, and Shared Investment in Pro-poor Environmental Services (RUPES) project. The workshop was held in the Philippine town of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, 17–20 September 2012.

Unusually, she began by showing a photograph of a female farmer sorting fruit while sitting in front of a drawing of children, flowers, a horse, a tractor and a rainbow.

Female farmer sorting fruit

A female farmer sorts fruit in front of a 'dream' background. Photo: Benjamin Custer / World Agroforestry Centre

‘This picture reminds us that as we go about the daily tasks of researching and developing environmental services’ schemes, what’s behind us, motivating us, is a dream of a better world,’ said Dr Yi.

The outcomes of the research in China were spread across a number of sites in that vast country, from the Tibetan Plateau—where RUPES’ data and analysis influenced the subsequent policy on rewards for ecosystem services’ schemes for grassland developed by China’s State Council in 2008–2010—to the watershed of Songhuaba, where RUPES helped set the compensation standard for a rewards’ scheme.

RUPES has also made a mark in Dr Yi’s own home of Xishuangbanna, where she herself conducted research. Xishuangbanna is one of the few tropical areas in China and home to about 25% of the country’s flora and fauna species.

In this rich tropical environment, the area under rubber plantations doubled during the 10 years from 1992 to 2002, and by two and a half times in the next eight years.

Nowadays, rubber monoculture plantations take up more than 20% of Xishuangbanna’s land area, and 25% of them are in areas beyond the rubber-growing boundaries set by the Government itself.

Whatsmore, 5% of Xishuangbanna’s land is designated as collective forests, which might become targets for conversion to rubber and other cash-crop monoculture plantations in the near future.

Rubber expansion in a province in China

Rubber monoculture plantation expansion in Xishuangbanna, 1992-2002-2010


In response, the RUPES’ team prepared a draft ecological land-use planning scheme for the Xishuangbanna Prefecture Government; started two pilot sites with the Prefecture Government and other local research institutes to explore agroforestry rubber/green rubber based on the RUPES’ study results; and brought nearly 50 scientists, government officials and village representatives to a workshop to discuss the validation of the study result and the potential for rewards’ schemes in Xishuangbanna. Later this year, a follow-up workshop will be held to further develop the idea.

From all of these activities, perhaps, will eventually come a more robust, rich environment that provides many services for many more people.


More information about RUPES and





This work is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.




Rob Finlayson

Robert Finlayson is the Southeast Asia program's regional communications specialist. As well as writing stories for the Centre's website, he devises and supervises strategies for projects and the countries in the Southeast Asia region, including scripting and producing videos, supervising editors and translators and also assisting with resource mobilization.

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