Villagers near the Yancheng Rare Bird National Nature Reserve explore pesticide reduction for the benefit of ecosystems and livelihoods
Yancheng is proud of its red-crowned cranes. The magnificent but endangered bird species is the star attraction of a wetland reserve that occupies much of the seacoast of this municipality in Jiangsu Province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Widely regarded across northeast Asia as a symbol of happiness, good luck, longevity, and fidelity, the red-crowned crane is depicted seemingly everywhere in Yancheng: welded into iron fences and gates, dominating hotel design, commonplace in public statuary, and echoed in the profile of countless streetlights. A building in the shape of a giant crane is the new visitor’s center in the Yancheng Rare Birds National Nature Reserve, which is the winter home of 60% of the world’s remaining 2,500 red-crowned cranes.
Unfortunately, in cultivated fields in and near the bird reserve, red-crowned cranes damage crops, including cotton. Farmers complain that the cranes damage the fibers when they rip open the bolls to reach the cotton seeds that the fibers surround. Farmers also plant wheat, some using pesticide-coated seed for the winter crop in late October and early November, just as the endangered birds arrive to spend the winter.
“Village leaders often ask us not to use pesticides,” says Wang Songqing, a smallholder in the village of Xingnong. “We should be friendly neighbors to the nature reserve. We protect birds, but we need enough compensation.” Wang shares that he can get high production — about 2000 kilograms of wheat – if he uses pesticide, but only 1400 kilograms without using pesticide.
Xingnong is one of two villages that participated in a 2012-2013 pilot study supported by the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Poverty and Environment Fund (PEF). Called Developing an Eco-compensation Framework for the Jiangsu–Yancheng Coastal Wetlands, the study explored different options for protecting this internationally significant coastal wetlands.