This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .
Various decentralization experiments are currently underway in the Chinese forestry sector. However, a key question often ignored by researchers and policymakers is what farmers really want from reform. This paper addresses this question using a survey-based choice experiment. We investigated farmers’ preferences for various property-rights attributes of a forestland contract. We found that farmers are highly concerned with what types of rights a contract provides. Reducing perceived risks of contract termination and introducing a priority right in the renewal of an old contract significantly increase farmers’ marginal willingness to pay (MWTP) for a forest contract. An extended waiting time for rights to harvest the forest reduces a farmer’s perceived value of a contract. We also investigated whether accounting for the fact that farmers ignore one or more attributes when answering stated preference questions affects the MWTP, and found it to be systematically lower in the model where we considered that respondents ignore attributes.