Monday 27 December 2010

Settling down Tibet’s nomads a denial of their food right

(, Dec25, 2010)  To put nomadic people in a situation “where they have no other options than to sell their herd and resettle,” as being done in Chinese ruled Tibet and Inner Mongolia, is a violation of their right to food, Reuters Dec 23 cited UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier De Schutter as saying. De Schutter had made the observation in a report released Dec 23 at the end of a nine-day trip to China. 

The report was cited as saying such policies were in violation of China's commitment to uphold the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which prohibits depriving people of their means of subsistence. 

Herders in Inner Mongolia and Tibet regions were especially vulnerable to grazing bans, forced fencing and animal slaughter policies designed to prevent the degradation of pasture lands and environmental disasters, the report was cited as noting. 

The Special Rapporteur’s report was also said to highlight China's shrinking amounts of arable land and land-grabbing by authorities and developers. It was cited as saying as China's development had spread to rural areas, some farmers had been forced to give up the land they tend, often to the benefit of officials and developers who use a hazy legal framework to justify the grabs in the public interest.

The report was said to note that while China had made impressive achievements in feeding its population over the past few decades, the country's agricultural output and the right to food were distinct issues facing "important challenges." The loss of 8.2 million hectares (20.26 million acres) of arable land since 1997 to urbanisation and forest and grassland replanting efforts, the report was said to note, presented a "major threat" to China's ability to maintain grain self-sufficiency.

The following is taken from the report which can be found here
Threats to nomadic herders

Nomadic herders in Western Provinces and Autonomous Regions, especially in the Tibet (Xizang) and Inner Mongolian Autonomous Regions, are another vulnerable group. The Grassland Law adopted in 1985 both in order to protect grassland and in order to modernize the animal husbandry industry towards commodification has now been complemented by a range of policies and programmes, including tuimu huancao (“removing animals to grow grass”) and tuigeng huanlin (“Returning Farmland to Forest”). These programmes, part of the 1999 Western Development Strategy (xibu da kaifa), seek to address the degradation of pasture lands and control disasters in the low lands of China. They include measures such as grazing bans, grazing land non-use periods, rotational grazing and accommodation of carrying capacity, limitations on pastures distribution, compulsory fencing, slaughter of animal livestock, and the planting of eucalyptus trees on marginal farmland to reduce the threat of soil erosion. While there is little doubt about the extent of the land degradation problem, the Special Rapporteur would note that herders should not, as a result of the measures adopted under the tuimu huancao policy, be put in a situation where they have no other options than to sell their herd and resettle.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights prohibits depriving any people from its means of subsistence, and the 1992 Convention on Biodiversity acknowledges the importance of indigenous communities as guarantors and protectors of biodiversity (Art. 8 j). China has ratified both of these instruments. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Chinese authorities to engage in meaningful consultations with herding communities, including in order to assess the results of past and current policies, and examine all available options, including recent strategies of sustainable management of marginal pastures such as the New Rangeland Management (NRM) in order to combine the knowledge of the nomadic herders of their territories with the information that can be drawn from modern science. The Special Rapporteur also encourages the Chinese authorities to invest in rehabilitating pasture, and to support remaining nomads with rural extension. The potential of livestock insurance programmes should also be explored, as tested successfully in Mongolia. Such programs, which pay nomads to restock and recover after a major disaster, encourage nomads to keep herds at much smaller scale as they would not fear losing their herding activity after such disasters if covered by such insurances.

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