Managing People, Livestock and Grasslands in Pastoral Areas
Grassland degradation is a serious blight on the Chinese landscape. Encroaching deserts, invasive weeds and denuded pastures are some of the more visible signs of the degradation. Yet they are just the tip of the iceberg of adverse impacts on herder livelihoods and ecological services. The sheer magnitude of the grassland degradation problem has seen the hearts and minds of many ofﬁcials and scholars both within and outside China devoted to resolving the issues involved. In recent years billions of yuan and an army of scientists, extension workers and consultants have been engaged in tackling the challenges posed. The high stakes involved and the complexity of this natural resource management problem make it a fascinating area of investigation. The authors ﬁrst became aware of the seriousness of the degradation problem in the pastoral areas of China in the late 1980s while undertaking a research project on the Chinese ﬁne wool industry. It was apparent from an early stage of the project that ﬁne wool from Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Gansu was being grown on highly degraded grasslands. Indeed grassland degradation in the ﬁne wool growing areas in these provinces and in many other parts of the pastoral region had been occurring for many years and had reached serious levels by the late 1980s. However little attention and few resources were being directed at the problem at the time. Since the early 1990s the authors have been involved in a series of other research projects on China’s ruminant livestock industries...