Organizer and Chair: James Reardon Anderson, Georgetown University
Discussant: James Ellis, Winrock International
This panel includes four paper presentations and one discussion by members of the "Grassland Ecosystem of the Mongolian Steppe (GEMS) Project." The GEMS Project, which is co-sponsored by the Academies of Science of the United States, China and Mongolia, brings together natural and social scientists from China, Mongolia, Great Britain and the United States to study the human and natural impacts on the grassland ecosystem of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia. During the past three years, 30 to 40 scholars have been working individually or in small groups to study discrete aspects of this problem. The goal of the GEMS project is to demonstrate the interaction of human and natural factors in the dynamics of the steppe region. GEMS participants seek to reach beyond their separate disciplines and especially across the line that divides the natural and social sciences and the study of Mongolia and China. Research for this project and a joint publication, which is schedule for completion in 1995, will focus on a defined region of eastern Inner Mongolia and the adjacent area of Mongolia. The joint volume, entitled "Continuity and Change on the Mongolian Steppe: The Implications for Land Use," will include papers on terrestrial systems (soil, flora and fauna), climate-ecosystem interactions, data collection and analysis, history, and human factors at both micro (household and community) and macro (region and nation) levels. The papers and discussion presented by the proposed panel will be included in this volume.
James Reardon Anderson, Georgetown University
This paper traces the relationship between changes in the natural environment and human history in the West Liao River Basin (located in what is now southeastern Inner Mongolia) during the past 10,000 years. The story covers three subperiods, each supported by its own type of data and with a progressively sharper and narrower geographic focus. The prehistoric age of the late Pleistocene and early Holocene has been reconstructed on the basis of paleological and archaeological evidence and set in the broad context of China's northern tier. The use of written records confers a higher resolution to the image of the West Liao Basin and neighboring Keerqin Sandland during the historic era, from around 500 BC to the middle of the twentieth century. Finally, for the period since 1949, field observations and interviews have been used to build a detailed account of the dramatic changes that have occurred in Wengniute Banner, a small but significant slice of land at the center of the West Liao system. The paper reaches two principal findings: first, that changes in climate have set the boundaries for evolving human adaptations in this region; and second, that political intervention, more than spontaneous social and economic forces, has been the most important source of human impact on the environment.
Jeremy Swift, University of Sussex
This paper will analyze the impact on the extensive pastoral economy of Mongolia of three major political and economic transformations this century: the 1921 revolution and failed attempts at collectivization in the 1930s, successful collectivization from the 1950s, and decollectivization from 1990. The paper will look at changes and continuities in livestock numbers, species composition and geographic distribution; productivity changes following changes in livestock ownership, production technology and social organization of production; changes in land tenure and the organization of herding; the economic relationship between towns and countryside; changes in the extent of rural poverty and how it is managed. The paper concludes that although there have been revolutionary changes in the formal structure of the herding economy in this century, there have also been important underlying continuities, and that the latter are important in the new development policies now being decided for the Mongolian rural economy.
Dee Williams, Columbia University and the East West Center
In an effort to control pastoral overgrazing, Chinese government policies since decollectivization have promoted the private enclosure of former commonly grazed rangelands. Preliminary data collection and analysis from Inner Mongolia indicate that recent spatial transformations have dramatically affected animal/land stocking ratios, but with likely negative consequences for the wider rangeland ecosystem. The enclosure policy, as filtered through local cultural attitudes and social realities, both aggravates land tenure ambiguities and intensifies grazing pressures on precisely the most vulnerable tracts of land at the most vulnerable periods in the vegetation growth cycle. Over near term considerations, the current grazing management system exacerbates wind and soil erosion processes that contribute to desert expansion.
Maria Fernandez Gimenez, University of California, Berkeley
This paper reports on the ethnoecology of Mongolian pastoralists in the forest steppe zone of Mongolia. Ethnoecology investigates how people classify their knowledge of the environment and environmental processes and how environmental perceptions affect human interactions with the landscape. This study: first, describes how herders classify pasture resources in the forest-steppe and perceive ecological processes that may lead to deterioration of pasture quality, and second, compares herders' classification of pasture resources with classifications based on empirical measurements of species composition and standing biomass in several major plant communities of the forest steppe zone. The findings of the study show how recent structural changes in Mongolia's economy affect the use of traditional ecological knowledge and management practices.
Albert Keidel, World Bank
This paper reviews the linkage between economic policy and grassland degradation. It finds that explicit economic policies have-directly and indirectly-caused the degradation and its continuation. Policies directly responsible for grassland degradation have set animal husbandry production targets for the region which are too ambitions for the carrying capacity of available grasslands. These policies reflect other more indirect influences, including the encouragement of Han Chinese immigration for purposes of crop cultivation on the best grazing lands, and encouragement of rapid increases in household incomes in herding communities, without providing alternative sources of income, either by investment in appropriate local service and manufacturing capacity, or by facilitating seasonal employment in more distant economic centers in coastal regions. The paper provides data on relevant trends, including animal number increases since 1947, and summarizes the author's interviews with local officials and technical experts. It makes recommendations to facilitate out-migration and alternative non-herding sources of income as the only hope for increasing household incomes in ways consistent with restoring ecological balance on the range.
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