Sustainable Development in Western China
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Sustainable Development in Western China

Managing People, Livestock and Grasslands in Pastoral Areas

Colin G. Brown

This much-needed study provides a unique examination of the intricate web of policies and institutions that now impact on grassland degradation and sustainable development in China’s pastoral region. Understanding this complex matrix and its impact on the management of people, livestock, grasslands, markets and industry structures is crucial in charting a way forward. The authors argue that the aim should be to manage these inter-locking complex systems in a manner that takes advantage of the opportunities that technology present to achieve sustainable use of the grasslands.
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Chapter 2: Grassland Systems and Challenges

Colin G. Brown


Most people associate China with intensive agriculture, sprawling urban areas and industrial belts. Yet around 42% of China’s land area or around 400 million hectares are grasslands and they account for about 13% of the world’s total grassland area (Hong 2006). For the Chinese government, the grasslands and the pastoral region pose a complex resource management and rural development challenge that calls for a policy response involving technical, economic, environmental, social and cultural dimensions. Figure 2.1 illustrates key aspects of the grassland system that can assist in understanding the challenges. The broad goal, as represented at the top of the figure, is effective grassland management that fosters sustainable livelihoods for households and the ecological services that grasslands provide. Livelihoods are dependent not only on the incomes generated from grazing livestock but also on other farm incomes, non-farm incomes as well as access to education, health and other basic services. Ecological services cover a range of items from biodiversity, habitat protection, watershed management and prevention of desertification. The grasslands comprise various resources including pasture biomass, shrubs, water, soils, minerals and other natural resources. These resources combine together in various forms of land utilization including grazing livestock, intensive livestock, cropping, mining, infrastructure, tourism, residential, protected areas and reserves, and other land uses. The resources are managed and grassland used under a multi-layered governance system varying from decisions made at household, community, local government and Central government level. The grasslands also comprise various sub-systems such as a livestock/ feed subsystem, an institutional...

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