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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #320847

Title: Strategies to alleviate poverty and grassland degradation in Inner Mongolia: Intensification vs production efficiency of livestock

item BRISKE, DAVID - Texas A&M University
item ZHAO, MENGLI - Inner Mongolian Agriculture University
item HAN, GUODONG - Inner Mongolian Agriculture University
item XIU, CHANGBAI - Inner Mongolian Agriculture University
item KEMP, DAVID - University Of Sydney
item Havstad, Kris
item WILLMS, WALTER - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item KANG, LE - Chinese Academy Of Sciences
item WANG, ZHONGWU - Texas A&M University
item WU, JIANGUO - Inner Mongolian Agriculture University
item HAN, XINGGUO - Chinese Academy Of Sciences
item BAI, YONGFEI - Chinese Academy Of Sciences

Submitted to: Journal of Environmental Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/5/2014
Publication Date: 4/1/2015
Publication URL:
Citation: Briske, D.D., Zhao, M., Han, G., Xiu, C., Kemp, D., Havstad, K.M., Willms, W., Kang, L., Wang, Z., Wu, J., Han, X., Bai, Y. 2015. Strategies to alleviate poverty and grassland degradation in Inner Mongolia: Intensification vs production efficiency of livestock. Journal of Environmental Management. 152:177-182.

Interpretive Summary: Though this report focuses on rangelands in China, its basic conclusions have applications to arid rangelands around the world, including in the U.S. In China, as part of an effort to alleviate poverty in rural populations engaged in livestock production, the Chinese attempted intensify production systems to increase livestock numbers and income of herders. However, the intensification costs, including the need for increased amounts of supplemental harvested forages during the winter and during drought seasons were excessive. More significantly, intensification led to land degradation. And rangelands, in China and elsewhere including the U.S., have resource limitation that need to be recognized and accounted for in any management system. Rather than attempting to intensify production and exceed resource capacities, matching production systems to their environments will better support rural economies and sustain herder livelihoods.

Technical Abstract: Semi-nomadic pastoralism was replaced by sedentary pastoralism in Inner Mongolia during the 1960's in response to changes in land use policy and increasing human population. Large increases in numbers of livestock and pastoralist households (11- and 9-fold, respectively) during the past 60 yrs have variously degraded the majority of grasslands in Inner Mongolia (78 M ha) and jeopardize the livelihoods of 24 M human inhabitants. A prevailing strategy for alleviating poverty and grassland degradation emphasizes intensification of livestock production systems to maintain both pastoral livelihoods and large livestock numbers. We consider this strategy unsustainable because maximization of livestock revenue incurs high supplemental feed costs, marginalizes net household income, and promotes larger flock sizes to create a positive feedback loop driving grassland degradation. We offer an alternative strategy that increases both livestock production efficiency and net pastoral income by marketing high quality animal products to an increasing affluent Chinese economy while simultaneously reducing livestock impacts on grasslands. We further caution that this strategy be designed and assessed within a social-ecological framework capable of coordinating market expansion for livestock products, sustainable livestock carrying capacities, modified pastoral perceptions of success, and incentives for ecosystem services to interrupt the positive feedback loop that exists between subsistence pastoralism and grassland degradation in Inner Mongolia.