Seminar on Development of Livestock Farming in the Northern border, Inner Mongolia

Date July 3th – 8th, 2007
Place Xiwuqi County, Inner Mongolia, China
Organizers Integrated Green Herds-Products Development Association in Harigent
The School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, Renmin University of China
Sponsors Green Field Foundation Limited
Event Executive David Lai
Aim and Objectives To study and research the development of animal husbandry in the northern border and economic return of the herdsmen. Provide update knowledge and environmental friendly grazing land management for the industry to increase the income of herdsmen.
Observation Report for Inner Mongolia Xiwuqi Pastoral Area Development Forum
4-7 July 2007

My recent trip from Hong Kong to Inner Mongolia and back home took 11 days from 30 June 2008 to 10 July 2008. Half of time was spent on traveling. Actually I stayed in Mongolia only 5 days with 3.5 days for the forum and 1.5 days visiting the associations of Xiqi, Xilin and Baiqi. Yet, these 5 days of conference and visits over 600 km in the Mongolia prairie proved to be a valuable experience.

In this 3-day Forum, government officials, experts, scholars, representatives from business chambers, non-government organisations had made their views mostly in Mongolian language. Hu Jing Ping (from the civil authority) and teachers including Bao Qing Wu and Hai Shan delivered the concluding statements which made us understand most of the views clear despite the language problem. As time is limited, there was no detailed discussion on the setting up and operations of cooperative. The issues in the Forum reflect the social problems and difficulties of the herdsmen in Inner Mongolia.

The followings are the key issues in the Forum which are related to the objectives of the Green Field Foundation and my personal views.

Education

Primary and Secondary school system in Inner Mongolia is similar to other areas in China. A central school is built in the district centre to provide education for students from the neighbouring pastoral areas. Due to the long distance from pastoral areas, herdsmen unwillingly relocate their children to the district centre which incurs great inconvenience and extra cost affecting their life and work. Their children may lose gradually their tradition of nomadic life and training. Small-scale village school is rarely seen while the Mongolians value much on education. It is not uncommon that they send their children to other provinces or overseas to receive high level education, but this incurs outflow of talents. Limited things could be done in terms of building school or supplying teachers. But it may help by providing financial assistance to students of poor families, and providing occupational or professional education services.

Culture

The Mongolian is the largest nomadic group in the world today. They inherit their unique styles of home, food, music, clothes, tools, ceremonies and other things. Their religion, tribe spirit, habits and customs, proprieties, equestrian and wrestling sports, and sacrificial rituals are still part of their life today. This unique group has played an important role in man’s history and contributed to the pluralistic social development. However, new challenges such as changes in social, political, economical, materialistic and habitual life are posting danger to the old styles. Thus, we should put more effort to preserve, study, develop and promote the Mongolian way of life.

Environmental Education

The Mongolian herdsmen, moving from one place to another in the prairie, believe they are sons of Heaven and Earth. They have developed their set of knowledge and code of practice suitable for the pastoral areas, and passed these on generations after generations. Living in harmony with the nature, the Mongolian can be regarded as precursor of environmental conservation. However, the Mongolia prairie is inevitably receding due to global climate changes, increasing demand for materials, urbanization and exploitation, exhaustion of soil, poor management of land, and in particular, extensive mining and pollution of water and underground water. While piecemeal preservation of patches of grassland helps little, targeted measures must be implemented in different areas and districts for effective conservation. This could be done by pooling resources and expertise for a concerted plan to restore the prairie.

Sustainable Development

Mongolia has abundant resources which favours sustainable development on condition that the difficulties of lack of water and harsh climate can be overcome. We should improve the existing economic structure (herding, mining) which depends mostly on exploitation of natural resources by better management and efficient development for a multifunctional and diversified development. This can be done by enriching knowledge of ecosystem and agriculture of the herdsmen for animal husbandry, provision of professional courses for development of second and third tier business, training of personnel, promoting tourism with ethnic features, as well as setting up regional cooperative organisations. All these measures will form the base for sustainable development and private participation.

The scant rainfall this year depresses the herdsmen so much that they look to Heaven for rain. It is sad to see their haplessness. Fortunately, I was told it rained after I got back to Hong Kong.

Standing on this borderless prairie, men seem extremely small. And time seems stop at a moment when we still feel the great men riding on horses and galloping through the stretches of grassland. Over long, long time, this great nomadic group has gone through all the hardships and difficulties. But under the giant wheel of change, can they face the strike of modernisation and still preserve their culture and spirit?!

David Lai

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