Household and grassland – a case study from Tibet

Report from Ciren Yangzong, Master Programme in Indigenous Studies, University of Tromsø
Project 200501253-13

Financial support to the project: “The household responsibility contract system and the question of grassland protection. A case study from the Chang Tang, northwest Tibet Autonomous Region”

I am Masters Student in Indigenous Studies at the University of Tromsø. This summer I got field work financial support from the Sámi Center and SEMUT. I have done fieldwork in northwest Tibet.The distance from Lhasa (the capital of Tibet Autonomous region) to the fieldwork area is about 1380 km. I spent more than one month there to do research. My thesis focuses on Household Responsibility Management System for Grassland Protection: the case study of HRMS in Geze County, Nari Prefecture of Northwest Tibet. It is also a part the large project called Biodiversity Conservation and the Maintenance of Pastoralism in Western Tibet-Research and Training in the Environmental Science.

Fieldwork Area: Northwest Tibet

Fieldwork Area: Northwest Tibet

Geze is one of Nari Prefecture’s counties. It is about 4,880m to 5,200m above sea level too high for agriculture. Animal husbandry is the main source of lively-hood with sheep, goats, and yarks the principal livestock. The roots causes of grassland degradation in all of the China, in early 1980s Chinese government dismantled the commune system. Almost all animals were owned by individual nomad families called Household Responsibility System. Each family became responsible for its own livestock production and the marketing of livestock products. Through this grassland policy, assignment of grassland use rights to the individual household level, pastoralists was given the incentive to stock their grassland within biophysical limits and invest in grassland improvement (Bank and Richard). Grassland remained the property of the state but nomads used the grassland communally. (Miller 1999)

Yarks: Yark is a key animal for Tibetan nomads. It provides milk and milk products, meat, wool, and hair.

Yarks: Yark is a key animal for Tibetan nomads. It provides milk and milk products, meat, wool, and hair.

In fact it was accelerating grassland degradation because livestock numbers rapidly increased. it is similar related to classic “The Tragedy of the Commons” (Garrett Hardin 1968). In 1993 the government implemented a reform known as Household Responsibility Management System for Grassland, to control overgrazing.

Meeting of Household Responsibility System for Grassland

Meeting of Household Responsibility System for Grassland

Why I chose this Nari Prefecture? It because Nari area recently had grassland reform based on the HRS. It is a new grassland policy reform for grassland and land us distributed according to the number of people in the family. In fact it already has been done in Inner Mongolia 15 years ago. My question is does Household Responsibility System for Grassland really protection grassland? Under the new policy do they understand and accept it? Etc…

Based on these questions I interviewed local Animal Husbandry Bureau’s governors, village heads and nomads’ age between 18-75 (woman and man). Although it is very difficult to find some information, I did my best to collected data. I also participated in some seminars. However, I am expecting to write thesis.

Read the thesis online – Munin

About Siri Johnsen

Hovedtillitsvalgt for Akademikerne UiT, Norges arktiske universitet, januar 2006-januar 2017
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