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 8: Managing People

Colin G. Brown


Managing institutions, markets and technology are a necessary but not sufficient condition to improving the condition of the grasslands and the livelihoods of households in the pastoral areas. A crucial part of the solution lies in the management of people. The rise in human population has induced a rise in livestock numbers and led to grazing pressures beyond the carrying capacity of the grasslands given existing and likely future technologies. Apart from the connection between human population and livestock grazing pressure, other aspects focus attention on the management of people. The provision of basic services such as health and education are much lower in the remote and geographically dispersed pastoral region than in other areas of China. One of China’s goals for the development and modernization of western China is to improve these basic services in pastoral areas. Developing these services is not only important for the welfare of people directly but also impacts on economic adjustment, on the productivity of labour, and on the uptake and effective utilization of new technologies. The movement of people across employment sectors and localities is also part of the structural adjustment process associated with economic growth and development, a process to which people in the pastoral region are not immune. The barriers to and costs of adjustments are much greater for most pastoral households than for other rural households. Education and skill levels are often inadequate for alternative occupations. In addition there are fewer nearby alternative economic opportunities in pastoral areas and...

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