Home Institution

Colorado State University

Publication Date

Fall 2015

Program Name

China: Language, Cultures, and Ethnic Minorities


Xishuangbanna, in Yunnan,China, contains the country’s highest concentration of biodiversity. Since the 1980s,rubber plantations have replaced a significant portion of the prefecture’s lowland Seasonal Tropical Rainforest, leading to wildlife habitat loss and other environmental issues.Monoculture farming practices also leave farmers economically vulnerable to market fluctuations. To learn the best solutions for increasing ecosystem services and income stability in rubber-dominated areas, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) project Green Rubber engages smallholders directly in establishing and maintaining scientifically rigorous intercropping experiments in their villages.

Using Man’e village and the Green Rubber project as a case study, I asked to what degree and through what means can local knowledge improve environmentally-friendly rubber initiatives. I employed formal surveys of residents (sample of 52), guided interviews with several key informants, tours to the local nature reserve, and visits to rubber farms to discover what local knowledge exists of use in designing intercropping projects. To learn how scientists may use such knowledge, I employed participant observation during the scientists’ process of establishing initial communication with the village.

My results indicate that there is significant knowledge present in the village that can be of use for restoration ecologists in designing green rubber that is adapted to the local economy and local resource consumption patterns. This knowledge lies scattered in disparate aspects of the community; finding it requires looking carefully and learning holistically about the community. Furthermore, before they can establish a practical platform from which to engage locals in their project, researchers must develop close communication with the villagers.

These results can inform initial planning at future study sites within the Green Rubber project and other initiatives to encourage rural communities to adopt sustainable rubber growing practices.


Agriculture | Asian Studies | Environmental Health and Protection | Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Place and Environment | Politics and Social Change


Article Location