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1 May 2007 Strategic Innovations for Improving Pastoral Livelihoods in the Hindu Kush–Himalayan Highlands
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This 2-volume publication is the result of an international workshop on “The Changing Face of Pastoralism in the Hindu Kush–Himalayan–Tibetan Plateau Highlands,” held in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region (People's Republic of China) as a contribution to the International Year of Mountains (IYM) 2002. Volume 1 consists of the workshop proceedings, and Volume 2 includes a dozen technical papers.

Volume 1 contains almost 40 short contributions of 2–4 pages each, organized into 6 chapters, each with a synthetic overview. Chapter 1 mainly presents ICI-MOD's Regional Rangeland Program (RRP). Chapters 2 to 4 summarize the individual oral presentations, while Chapter 5 presents the results of the 5 working group discussions and Chapter 6 the overall outcomes and recommendations.

Chapter 1, which provides rather detailed information about the RRP, is very informative and useful—especially with regard to some of the more recent literature used as a reference. The chapter points out a general lack of understanding of the economy, the way of life, and the environment upon which the marginalized pastoralists of the Hindu Kush–Himalaya depend. Their extensive and opportunistic system of livestock mobility is based on a rich heritage of local knowledge, from which they have developed elaborate mechanisms to collectively manage resources. However, this system is increasingly threatened by modernization and marginalization. The authors also note that many well-meant development programs are driven by a general disdain vis-à-vis the pastoral way of life, and underestimate the efficacy of pastoral production systems and rangeland ecology. Emphasis is placed on the need to explore innovative institutional arrangements for implementing effective pasture and rangeland management. The RRP approach of promoting co-management in order to create self-sustaining partnerships among stakeholder groups requires changes of attitude and behavior among the organizations involved. This chapter mentions the conditions and agents of change experienced through the RRP. It also contains interesting information about the conceptual framework applied, the implementation strategy followed, and the outcomes achieved during Phase 1 of the RRP. It ends by describing the objectives and approaches that formed the basis for the Lhasa workshop as well as the Rangeland Roundtable at the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit (BGMS, 29 October to 1 November 2002).

The contributions in Chapter 2 deal with integrated research on pastoral production systems based on a multidisciplinary perspective on the challenges and issues at stake. Among the experiences presented there are several studies from northern Pakistan, including, for example, one concerning the impact of development change on local livestock enterprise (Wright et al) and another on human and economic issues linked to livestock production (Clemens).

Chapter 3 focuses on integrated development approaches and their quest to improve access to rangeland technologies, markets, alternative incomes, and financial and social services. C. Yuxiang presents outcomes from forage development trials in different ecozones of the Tibet Autonomous Region which have provided a basis for identifying annual and perennial grasses with a potential for future seed development. Another contribution (Goldings) focuses on the most promising and culturally respectful options to improve the cash income of local herders. He argues that the development of European-style cheese made from yak milk as a niche product should be supported, instead of exposing remote herders to direct competition with the more efficient lowland producers of conventional dairy and meat products.

Chapter 4 addresses the issue of enabling institutional and policy changes, focusing in particular on ways to enhance the capacities of government and non-government institutions to facilitate local learning processes and improve the delivery of appropriate services to pastoral communities. Chapter 5 gives a summary of the 5 working group discussions dealing, for example, with the values and pitfalls of participatory development in pastoral areas. Chapter 6 summarizes the discussions held at both the Lhasa workshop and the BGMS, and presents extracts from the outcomes regarding “strategic innovations for improving pastoral livelihoods.” The summary includes a range of identified issues and emerging themes such as: 1) the lack of upscaling mechanisms and strategies to further promote participatory approaches, mainly applied through grassroots efforts to date, and 2) the poor understanding shown by local-level authorities mandated to implement flexible policies, leading to misinterpretation and ineffective implementation.

The introductory summaries in each chapter proved to be of great help in quickly identifying and selecting the most interesting content. The summaries of the oral presentations are interesting and succinct, but at the same time too short or too condensed and generalized to be directly reusable in my own research activity related to pastoral issues in Central Asia. Nevertheless, Volume 1 raised my interest in many of the topics featured, and I may well contact specific authors to ask for more detailed information or comprehensive reports.

At the same time, this desire has already partially been met by Volume 2, which includes 12 selected full papers. In the first of these, T. Banks addresses the institutional arrangements governing community-based natural resource management among Kazakhs in the Tian Shan and Altay Shan mountains of Xinjian (China). He points out group tenure arrangements and the related high level of social capital among group members. Regarding the enforcement of rangeland boundaries in the study area he concludes that boundaries are rather fuzzy, especially in spring and autumn pastures, where crossing of foreign territory is allowed for migration and for access to scarce water resources. An interesting rangeland management institution is the “year-round stationing of grassland protector households in the major seasonal pastures” of a village. Further institutional arrangements or mechanisms described include the minimization of exclusion costs, economies of scale regarding herd supervision, the abatement of environmental and climatic risks, and the minimization of governance costs. Finally, Banks discusses the implications for rangeland policy and concludes that group land tenure arrangements could represent a promising pathway towards tenure with regard to time and optimization for all households involved.

The other 11 papers in Volume 2 address tenure and management arrangements for China's grassland resources (Schwarzwalder et al), resource tenure models for rangeland improvement (Richard and Jingzheng), experiences in supporting community-based livestock and rangeland development (Sidahmed and Rota), participatory approaches in pastoral settings (Bayer and Waters-Bayer), integrated application of technical skills and participation (Qun et al), mitigation of livestock–wildlife conflicts (Wangchuk and Jackson), medicinal plants and pastoral use (Aumeeruddy-Thomas et al), medical practitioners serving pastoral communities in the Himalayas (Bista et al), holistic and community-based approaches for building sustainable livelihoods for Mongolian herders (Enkh-Amgalan), the integration of yak-herding communities into resource management planning processes in Bhutan (Wangchuk), and reflections about organizational learning in natural resource management between pastoralists and the government in Iran (Emadi).

While most proceedings of conferences, workshops, and other meetings tend to be rather disappointing and of little use—especially for those who did not actively participate in the events—these proceedings to me appear to be a pleasant exception, and are well worth reading.

Daniel Maselli "Strategic Innovations for Improving Pastoral Livelihoods in the Hindu Kush–Himalayan Highlands," Mountain Research and Development 27(2), 189-190, (1 May 2007).
Published: 1 May 2007

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