The recent Collective Forest Tenure Reform in China has started the process of devolving forest management rights from village collectives to households since 2003. In this paper, we study the impact of the reform on rural energy consumption. Devolving forest tenure improves farmers' access to forest products on their newly acquired forestland, and is therefore expected to increase farmers' fuelwood consumption. The reform also allows farmers to adopt some revenue-enhancing forest technologies which may lead to energy switching in farmer households. Our empirical study finds that the devolution significantly increases household fuelwood consumption for both lower and higher income households; the lower income households benefit more. This is welfare-improving in places where alternative fuels are still too costly. We find limited evidence that higher income households in Yunnan begin to substitute alternative commercial fuels for fuelwood when those are available. Our findings suggest further devolution of forest rights, especially in the poor, forest-rich regions.
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