Accepted paper:

'Closing down the grasslands' of Inner Mongolia

Authors:

Troy Sternberg (Oxford University)

Paper short abstract:

A policy of 'closing down the grasslands' reshapes pastoralism in Inner Mongolia, China. Government efforts at settlement, presented as essential for ecological reasons, affects herders’ livelihoods, opportunity and future viability.

Paper long abstract:

A policy of 'closing down the grasslands' reshapes pastoralism in Inner Mongolia, China. Government efforts at settlement, presented as essential for ecological reasons, affects herders' livelihoods and opportunity. The implicit removal of people from steppe grasslands is undertaken through regulation, financial inducements, competing land uses (farming), de facto privatization (fencing) and restriction on livestock numbers and pasture access. In Inner Mongolia Province mobile pastoralism is evolving into settled livestock raising; herders now settle in villages in winter, house animals in barns, buy fodder rather than graze in cold weather and depend on government support, most often loans or grants, to cope with climate disasters and herding exigencies. In northern China agro-pastoral livelihoods are environmentally dependent and considered risky endeavours as both cope in adverse (cold) conditions. Interestingly, herding is viewed as high-income work vis-à-vis farming in the region. This motivates some locals to become herders for perceived greater financial return at the same time the government seeks to settle pastoralists. The continuation of a modified form of livestock-raising with some mobility is contingent on district and village officials' interpretation and enforcement of laws. This leaves herders dependent on bureaucrats and their application of rules that are often environmentally or economically unsustainable. Local officials will be the ultimate arbiters of herding viability in China's northern steppe region.

panel MMM09
The emerging world of pastoralists and nomads (IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples)