Rural household livelihood and tree plantation dependence in the central mountainous region of Hainan island, China: Implications for poverty alleviation

Ruida Li, Hua Zheng, Cuiping Zhang, Bonnie Keeler, Leah H. Samberg, Cong Li, Stephen Polasky, Yongming Ni, Zhiyun Ouyang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Plantations support local economies and rural livelihoods in many mountainous regions, where poverty and a fragile environment are often interlinked. Managing plantations sustainably and alleviating poverty is a major challenge. This study reports on the findings of a household livelihood survey in the central mountainous region of Hainan Island, a global biodiversity hotspot. The survey aimed to identify rural household livelihoods, strategies to lift rural households out of poverty and potential environmental consequences of different livelihood strategies. Households were divided into five groups based on their main source of income: plantations, crops, livestock, local off-farm income and remittances. Plantations were the main source of income for 74% of households and provided 46% of the total income. Plantation land area, planting diverse tree species and intercropping were significantly associated with higher income. Reallocating land by family size could increase the proportion of households above the poverty line in the plantation group from 51.3% to 85.3%, while making only 3.3% of households worse off. Lower income households tended to apply more chemicals to plantations, which suggests that they create more strain on the environment. Improving household income through dynamically allocating plantation land and diversifying planted species could therefore be beneficial both socially and environmentally. Our results emphasize the importance of dynamic plantation land allocation and diverse plantation planting in poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number248
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments: Great thanks to the teachers and students at the University of Hainan to help interviews. We acknowledge the financial supports from China Scholarship Council and constructive comments from the Natural Capital Project team and others at the Institute on the Environment and the Department of Applied Economics of the University of Minnesota.

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41925005; 41871217) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2016YFC0503401).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Ecosystem services
  • Hainan island
  • Plantation management
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Sustainable household livelihood


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