Feature Story

Ranri Village in China brings back traditional grazing systems to address land degradation

September 13, 2017

Chinese villagers looking out over a backdrop of mountains with buffalo grazing and an eagle flying nearby.
In China's Sichuan Province, GEF's Small Grants Programme (SGP) is working with villagers to integrate traditional knowledge and sustainable land management methods with the aim of reversing desertification's damaging effects and land and livelihoods.

The thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification is currently taking place in Ordos, China, and the GEF Small Grants Programme has been actively sharing the practices and knowledge of communities and civil society organizations to address land degradation with the launch of its most recent publication, Community Approaches to Sustainable Land Management and Agroecology Practices.

One of the stories relates to the village of Ranri, located in Sichuan Province, in the southeastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. In this area, rapid population growth, economic and infrastructure development, and increased mining activity have put pressure on the ecosystem, an integral part of local communities’ livelihoods. In addition, overgrazing and overexploitation of the grassland has threatened pasturelands used for livestock and for planting wild medicinal plants, causing increased desertification in the fragile grassland ecosystem.

To address these issues, the local NGO Puxian Herder Ecological Relief Society of Shiqu County (PHERSSC), with the support of the GEF Small Grants Programme, implemented a project to reintroduce a traditional rotational grazing system (Enhancing Community Natural Resource Management Capacity and Alleviating and Eliminating Grassland Degradation).

Prior to the project, each family’s livestock would stay in that family’s rangeland for all four seasons of the year, contributing to the degradation of the pasture and overexploitation of the ecosystem while also increasing its vulnerability to rodent and pest infestation. During a community meeting, it was determined that the division of communal grasslands among individual households was a key factor to solving this problem.

In 2011, a project management committee comprised of 7 members from each of the affected communities was created to monitor the progress of the project. The involved communities agreed to remove the fences on their land and share the rangeland in a rotational grazing system. Additionally, stakes with perches were set up to attract eagles, which turned out to be very effective in controlling rodents and other pests. To restore depleted rangeland, herders planted grass and took steps to develop traditional handicrafts, such as stone-carving, to supplement their income.

By using traditional knowledge and the successful establishment of a rotational grazing scheme, these communities brought over 10,000 hectares of rangeland under sustainable land management, benefiting 2,193 indigenous Tibetan people, including 646 women. The results of the projects continue to be seen even after the project closure thanks to the project management committee, which has become a strong self-governance mechanism that manages pasture and supports livelihood improvement, benefiting 18 additional communities from nearby towns.