HERDING CAN IMPROVE ECOLOGY & LIVELIHOOD: SHOWCASING HINTERLAND CHINA
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Gracious day from the Pearl of the Orient!
Herding, the hallmark of pastoral economies, can considerably damage the natural ecology of pastoral lands. Several regions across Asia has already been noted for the pattern of over-grazing, the damages of which can deteriorate into desertification in the long run.
Herding engagements, however, can also be conceived as contributing to sustainable pastoralism. Such being the case, herding can contribute to ecological balance and food security in the short run. It need not be over-stressed that herding done sustainably can empower the pockets of the herders or pastors.
Below is a special report on interventions done to help herders and conserve natural habitats at the same.
[Philippines, 24 September 2011]
Project Profile: Restoring Grasslands and Improving Herders' Livelihood
August 2, 2011
- China takes third place after Australia and Russia in grassland area. However, the grassland degradation in western China is very serious.
- Xinjiang and Gansu's population make up 15 percent of China's total poor. Widespread poverty inhibits livestock development as well as the capacity of the region to seize new economic opportunities.
- A Bank-financed project restored grasslands in Xinjiang and Gansu and increased herders' income from 2,806 yuan to 7,328 yuan in six years.
The Gansu and Xinjiang Pastoral Development Project, launched in 2004 and completed in June 2010, assisted in the government’s efforts to improve the capacity of pastoral areas to support biodiversity and livestock and raise the living standards of the population living in those areas.
About 35,000 households or 140,000 people in Gansu and Xinjiang were primary beneficiaries of the project. And a total of about 120,000 households or 600,000 benefited from improved public sector services such as improved breeding stock, artificial insemination, veterinary and extension services. Many of the beneficiaries are ethnic minorities and women. The project was successful in halting and reversing degradation of pastures and in improving the productivity and quality of livestock in the areas covered.
As a result of the project, per capita net income of the beneficiaries increased significantly from 2806 yuan in 2003, before the project, to 7,328 yuan in 2009.
China takes third place after Australia and Russia in grassland area. However, the grassland degradation in western China is very serious. Over the period from 1989 to 1998, the total area of degraded grassland almost doubled. Reasons for this degradation include increasing conversion of grassland to cultivation, overstocking and overgrazing, as well as high levels of poverty, poor management, and natural factors such as rodent and insect infestation.
Gansu and Xinjiang are major regions of grassland and livestock. They account for one quarter of the territory of China and 30 percent of the country’s wool production. They are also critical environmental areas, both listed as priority areas in the Biodiversity Review of China, because they contain many grassland endangered species.
Xinjiang and Gansu also has a concentration of the poor, together making up almost 15 percent of China's total poor. Widespread poverty inhibits livestock development as well as the capacity of the region to seize new economic opportunities.
The project was designed to support grassland resource management through establishing improved livestock production and marketing systems that would increase the income of herders and farmers in the project areas. By empowering farmer and herder households to better manage their grassland resources and improve forage and feed production on arable lands, the project aimed to help them increase their incomes through more efficient and quality focused livestock production – which should be sufficient to generate marketable surplus to improve living standards.
As women traditionally play a significant role in livestock production activities, they naturally constituted the majority of beneficiaries of the project. Women were encouraged to participate in the implementation of project activities, and specific training and capacity building activities were organized for them.
Between 2004 and mid-2010, the results achieved by the project include the following:
- 35,000 families or 140,000 people in the two project provinces directly benefited from the project. 39 percent of them were ethnic minorities.
- An additional 85,000 households or 460,000 people benefited from improved breeding stock, artificial insemination, veterinary and extension services. The total number of beneficiaries in the two provinces reached about 120,000 households of 600,000 people.
- Annual per capita income of farmers and herders in the project areas increased from 2806 yuan in 2003 to 7,328 yuan in 2009.
- 200,000 hectares of grassland were brought under integrated grassland management. Of this total area, 120,000 hectares were fenced and reseeded.
- Demonstration sites of deferred rotational grazing showed that it could increase ground cover by about 5 percent and biomass by 10 percent, thus encouraging herders to participate in grassland management.
- Surveys conducted in the two provinces resulted in a grassland management database, survey reports and grassland resource maps, providing policymakers with up-to-date information on the status of the grassland resources.
- 76,000 hectares of forage crops were planted. This, together with provision of forage processing equipment, construction of silage pits and feeding in pens, reduced farmer and herder’s reliance on natural pastures. Improved nutrition from the planted forage and better pasture also resulted in higher reproductive rates.
- 27 new wool shearing stations helped upgrade wool packaging, baling and grading system and improved wool production efficiency.
- 36 new or renovated livestock markets increased incomes of farmers and herders and contributed to orderly development of the livestock sector through expanded access to markets, better market information and higher market efficiency.
- The introduction and extension of new technologies increased the efficiency of management of natural grasslands, artificial production of forage, breeding and raising of livestock, and production of high quality livestock products.
- The project provided training to over 600,000 farmers, herders and technicians, and supported public information campaigns on grassland conservation in schools and communities.
The Bank supported the project with a loan of US$66.27 million. In addition, the Bank contributed to the continuation of China's reform process towards a liberalized rural economy with strong, supportive market institutions. The research and policy studies analyzed the incentives and disincentives that influence how farmers and herders make management decisions regarding grassland use, which provided input for the policy and institutional reform in sustainable grassland resource management. The project piloted new, participatory approaches that seek to manage livestock in a manner that conserves biodiversity in the production landscape. Policy and institutional reform implementation support at county and township levels enabled biodiversity conservation by encouraging collaborative approaches across sectors, leading to the development of an integrated approach to grassland management by local institutions.
The central and local governments provided 340 million yuan in counterpart funding.
The Global Environment Facility (GEF) provided a grant of US$10.5 million in technical assistance to implement community-based grassland management, mitigate grassland degradation and conserve globally important biodiversity.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) provided support to the training activities of the project.
The household livestock operations have proven to be sustainable as they are financially attractive to individual farmers and herders, economically beneficial to society as whole and also environmentally sound.
For the veterinary, artificial insemination and breeding improvement services, both the central and local governments have committed substantial public resources to ensure their efficient operations and good maintenance.
Furthermore, the governments at various levels continue to support and promote the successful experiences of livestock production developed under the project. Both Gansu Province and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region are currently formulating various domestic projects to upscale the good practices.
The primary beneficiaries were herders and farmers whose average annual income was substantially below the country’s average per capita income. 39 percent of the beneficiaries were ethnic minorities. Women constituted the majority of beneficiaries of the project.
“In the last few years we have improved sheep breeding, changed to electric shearing, and adopted wool grading, sorting and packaging systems. The quality of wool has improved a lot, and the yield of clean wool has increased by five to eight percent. Now we can earn eight to ten yuan more from each sheep,” said An Xuelong and An Jinlin, herders in Gansu’s Sunan County.
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