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Population, Pasture Pressure, and School Education

Date:2012-06-18 10:58 Hits:

                 Population, Pasture Pressure, and School Education[1]
Case Study from Naqchu, TAR, PRC[i]
    Academics and policymakers alike are paying increasing attention to the interactions between Tibetan highland pasture and Tibetan nomad (drokpa) communities. An ongoing debate focuses upon the reasons for pasture degradation and overgrazing. Human population is a significant factor in pasture pressure and solutions may be found in this area. Fredrik Barth research concerning the dynamics of pasture pressure, economic choice, and demography in South Persia pasture society will be applied in this paper. This paper suggests that population outflow may partially alleviate pasture pressure. Population outflow is driven by individual economic choices but, as will be shown, education in the Naqchu District lies behind these choices.

    2.        Introduction
    Human activities have direct impact on pasture ecosystems: overgrazing and degradation may result when livestock populations exceed the carrying capacity of pastures (Gunnar 1977; Sepherd and G. M. Mckeon etc 1998; Jones and Sandland 1974; Humphrey and Sneath 1999; Liu 1999; Wang 1998). The interconnections between pasture production and human activities are, however, too complex to be understood only through Malthusian notions of ‘carrying capacity’ and ‘population pressure’. Other perspectives – particularly those of political economy, political ecology, and anthropology – need to be considered to create meaningful understandings of these dynamics.

    Research on pasture conditions in Tibet, PRC, have been conducted since the 1960s and applied the ‘carrying capacity’ model retrospectively from. This was a general study throughout Tibetan high plateau region, and this research became a base of following studies on Tibetan pastureland. Some scientific publications are specifically discussed concerning the pasture condition in Naqchu. These research program were carried out are between 1990 and 2000; they substantiated grassland degradation in Naqchu (Liou 1999, Liu 2003, Zha 2001). Findings suggest different views as to the causes of degradation and overgrazing.  Some consider human population as one of the major factors, namely, increasing the numbers of the human population creates pressure on the pasture carrying capacity, and this, in turn, results in pasture degradation (Liou 1999, Guo 2001). This paper will apply F. Barth research findings to test how population outflow may reduce such pressure in Naqchu.  Such outflow is driven by ongoing education policy, which provides skills and techniques for local pastoralist to survive beyond the pasture resource (Barth 1961). The hypothesis of this paper is that the younger generations, who have obtained school education, prefer to leave pastoral communities to gain greater economic income. This human population outflow from pastoral communities reduces the pressure on pasture.

[1] This paper is originally published at Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies (JIATS)

[i] I acknowledge the Tibet-Norway Network that funded my research, and thank to Dr. Kenneth Bauer who has commented on this article.