A large amount of cultivated lands in China is occupied by vacant residential areas, thereby wasting land resources and placing local food security at risk. Therefore, transforming vacant rural residential land back to its previous form is urgently required to maintain the amount of cultivated land and guarantee food security. We comprehensively analyzed the willingness of farmers to participate in vacant residential land transformation and determine the factors that influence such willingness, including the awareness of farmers about their rural residential environment, their knowledge of residential land-use policies and their awareness of the consequences of such transformation. A detailed survey was conducted amongst 252 farmers owning vacant residential lands in central China. Amongst these farmers, 75, 87 and 90 were entirely, partly and not living on farming, respectively. Only half of these farmers were willing to transform the vacant residential land, whilst those farmers who were partly living on farming were less willing to participate in the transformation than those who were entirely and were not living on farming. The factors that influence the willingness to transform varied across different types of farmers. Farmers who were not and were partly living on farming were significantly affected by their awareness of their rural residential environment, their knowledge of residential land-use policies, the length of residential land vacant time and their household income. Those farmers who were partly living on farming were also influenced by the number of vacant residential plots they possessed. Farmers who were entirely living on farming were significantly affected by their knowledge of the residential land-use policies, the number of vacant residential plots they possessed, their awareness of the consequences of land transformation and their family size. Results indicate that farmers are anxious about vacant residential land loss and that a communication gap is observed between them. Therefore, along with the communication between farmers and the government, the publicity and transparency of the rural residential land-use policies must be improved to eliminate the communication gap, relieve the anxiety of farmers, and increase the willingness to transform their vacant residential lands.
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