Pastoral Nomad Rights in Inner Mongolia

By Zhizhong, Wu; Wen, Du | Nomadic Peoples, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Pastoral Nomad Rights in Inner Mongolia


Zhizhong, Wu, Wen, Du, Nomadic Peoples


Abstract

It is not scientific to manage grasslands as farmland and manage nomads as farmers. We report evidence from Inner Mongolia that privatization of grassland use rights has led to large-scale wire fencing, grassland conversion to farming, excessive livestock stocking, and crises in grassland ecology, herders' living conditions and the Mongolian nomadic culture. The paper concludes that the ecological and cultural function of nomadism is non-substitutable from the perspectives of ecological security and cultural inheritance. The authors suggest that we should abolish private grassland use rights, tear down wire fencing, abolish set stocking rates and establish a legal nomad administrative licensing system to resume nomadism.

Keywords: Grassland ecology, Inner Mongolia, nomadism, pastoralism

Introduction

Located in the central east of the Asian continent, Inner Mongolia lies inland with an average altitude of about 1,000 meters above sea level, covering an area of 1,183 million square kilometres. It is an ecological barrier for China and the whole of East Asia. The grasslands of Inner Mongolia can be classified into five belts: temperate meadow, temperate typical grassland, temperate desert grassland, temperate grassland desert, and temperate desert. There are also three intrazonal grasslands: lowland meadow, mountain meadow and marsh. These eight types of grasslands vary in soil, plant species, grass yield and livestock capacity. To simplify the research, this paper classifies the grassland in the 12 cities, 101 counties and 5,000-plus villages into four types of zones according to soil properties.

Zone A: The Mongolian plateau area, also known as the semiarid region, which stretches to the Dengkou reach of the Yellow River in the west, northwest of Daxing'anling, and the north side of Yinshan Mountain in Inner Mongolia. It covers Hulunbei'er city, part of Xing'an league, Xinlinguole league, part of Wulanchabu league, part of Baotou city and part of Bayannao'er city. (See Figure 1)

Zone B: The Ke'erqin sand area in Liaohe Plain, also known as the serious soil loss area, refers to the area from the southeast hillside of Daxing'anling to northwest of Yanshan Mountain and north of Yinshan Mountain, which includes part of Xing'an league, Tongliao city and part of Chifeng city.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Zone C: The boundary area of Huabei Plain, also known as the fertile soil area, refers to the area from the east of Yinshan Mountain to Dengkou of Yellow River and Huabei Plain (excluding the Ordos desert area), which mainly includes part of Wulanchabu league, Huhhot city (Chi Le Chuan grassland), part of Baotou city, part of Ordos and part of Bayannao'er (Hetao Plain).

Zone D: The Alashan Gobi and Ordos desert area, also known as the arid area, covers Alashan league and Ordos desert area in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The paper reviews the history of the grassland management system, ecological environment, natural disasters and cultural development of the four zones of Inner Mongolia. Results are presented from several years of systematic observations on herders' families, remote sensing surveys of satellite images, and data on social and economic development.

The article first discusses the ecological crisis of the Inner Mongolian grasslands, and then outlines the problems related to herders and the crisis of Mongolian culture. Based on these findings, this article concludes that nomadism is a non-substitutable production model for solving the three crises and discusses the difficulties and jurisprudential logic of the nomad licensing system.

Ecological Problems

History has proved that nomadism is the best production model for protecting grassland ecology. Rock paintings at Helanshan, Yinshan and Zhenzishan all indicate that the water and pasture-based nomadic living and production model can be dated back to over 3,000 years in the Inner Mongolian grassland. …

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