Field projects

TCP/CPR/2902 (A)

Strengthening Capability of Risk Management of the Animal Husbandry Sector and Promoting Sustainable Development in the Grazing Area of Qinghai Province

[Although mainly backstopped by SDAR there are key rangeland, forage production and haymaking components that are backstopped by the Grassland Group of AGPC].

Qinghai summer grazing
Photo by Peter Harris


Qinghai is one of the five largest pastoral regions in China with extensive rangeland resources and long history of pastoral life. Livestock production plays an extremely important role in the economy of the province, especially for the ethnic groups. However, the harsh natural conditions and environment limit rangeland productivity. In addition, long-term overgrazing contributes to rangeland degradation and erosion. The ecosystem of the alpine pastoral area is now in a very fragile condition and the factors of poverty, environment deterioration and frequent natural disasters (e.g. severe snow disaster and spring drought) are particularly pronounced. They severely jeopardise the livelihood and production activities of local herders, and at same time restrain the sustainable development of the local economy and threaten the stability of the society. This striking combination of high exposure to natural disasters, poverty of local herders, steadily increasing pressure from livestock diseases and decline of pastoral productivity, caused by poverty, and the deteriorating environment, in turn, inhibited the capacity building of risk prevention, management and protection of the environment.

The problems prevailing in the family-based production system of the pastoral livestock industry in the province are further constrained by:

  • Poor infrastructure of family ranches and a lack of forage storage for the cold season greatly undermine the capability of disaster prevention and resistance.
  • Incompleteness of social service systems, which promotes the shape of a historically self-sufficient, extensive and low-efficient livestock model. Herders can hardly afford to invest in infrastructure construction to improve production and/or to build up a capability of risk prevention (disasters, diseases, etc.).
  • Poor educational level of herders in general.
  • Present number-oriented livestock production pattern.
  • Lack of opportunities for income-generating activities.
  • Backward production management capacities of herder households, which hampers the development of livestock production into a higher level and more intensive system.
  • The risk management and technical services at provincial, prefecture and county level, especially at township level, are very poor and of a low level. Lack of risk management ability of the concerned departments leads to a situation where herders usually do not maintain close links with these departments and technical institutions, which further affects the actual effectiveness of the efforts made by the government in poverty alleviation, risk resistance and disaster mitigation.

The above situation of increasing vulnerability steadily worsens, but is drastically accelerated due to sudden natural calamities. In recent years, natural disasters have occurred more frequently. Since the 1950s, 14 major snow disasters have happened. While 10 of them were between the 1950s and 1980s, (40 years) 4 alone occurred in the 1990s. This is an increase of almost 100 percent during the last decade. Due to the above-mentioned disasters, 22 million head of livestock have been lost, and the direct economic losses are estimated at as high as RMB 1.1 billion Yuan. It is therefore of the highest political and economic priority for the North-western Provinces of China to reduce immediately these substantive economic losses.

In order to break the cycle of disaster-poverty-resource degradation, the Chinese Government at various levels has given highest priority to risk management and disaster prevention/reduction as key elements in the National and as well as the Western-Region development strategies/programmes.

However, the concept and approach of pastoral risk management is very new in China and the Government lacks the experience of how to design and implement comprehensive risk prevention and management plans for pastoral communities. Therefore, the Chinese Government is seeking FAO’s technical assistance to strengthen the capability of risk management of the concerned departments and institutions, and to strengthen the capability of risk resistance of the herders in the project areas. The achievement of this assistance, a package of strategies and techniques on risk management, will be put forward to the decision-making departments, and will be extended to other areas with similar natural conditions and livestock production practice. The risk management strategy and action plan tested in the project areas can also be adopted by other NW China Provinces with similar ecosystems.


The long-term development objective of the TCP is to reduce the regular animal losses of pastoral herders in Qinghai due to recurrent natural disasters, and to build up their own capacities to prevent damage from natural calamities. The project will also contribute to the overall improvement of herder’s livelihoods, reduced environmental degradation and an increased capacity for risk prevention and management at local and provincial levels.

The immediate objectives are

  • To develop a comprehensive pastoral risk management strategy, including annual risk management contingency plans for two counties in Qinghai Province as pilot areas for further replication;
  • To develop and field test in selected villages together with herders innovative risk management techniques and improved livestock production options to improve rational utilization of the family-based ranches so as to reduce losses when disasters occur.


The project envisages the following main outputs:

Output 1: Locally adapted risk assessment methodology designed and tested among local institutions and herding households, and available for replication in other counties after project completion;

Output 2: Annual over-winter risk management plans for the pilot villages and counties developed, and consolidated into a pastoral risk management agenda for Qinghai Province available by September 2004; Technical capacities for pastoral risk management and coordination mechanism of township, county and prefecturate levels improved;

Output 3: Herders' economic co-operative associations for self-assistance established and operational in two pilot villages;

Output 4: Improved winter preparation and risk prevention capacities within pilot villages institutionalized and implemented

A: Rangeland improvement measures

B: Increased forage production and storage in herders' households

C: Methods and mechanisms developed for adjustment of herd and flock structures before winter

D: Veterinary stations equipped and staff trained to regularly monitor and treat livestock against parasitic and epidemic diseases

Output 5: Risk warning system for herders developed

Output 6: Training programme to increase stakeholder capabilities and skills in risk prevention and management


Project implementation was delayed from February 2003 by the SARS crisis in SE Asia to a new starting date of 6 Feburary, 2004.

The project was implemented in two poverty stricken counties, namely Henan and Zeku, of Huangnan Prefecture representative for the ecosystem of the southern part of Qinghai. The project implementation started in two selected pilot villages, linking them closely within the vertical as well as horizontal institutional framework. The achievements of the project will be extended to wider areas of the region through improved communication channels, intensified extension work and demonstration households.

Various consultancy missions (by national and international consultants) were undertaken in 2004 and 2005 and activities were completed with a wrap up workshop from 18-19th November, 2005 where the draft Pastoral Risk Management Strategy document for Qinghai Province was presented and discussed. The final version included various technical recommendations. At the meeting the participating villages expressed satisfaction with the project and requested continued collaboration with the extension staff of the Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Bureau as well as the Grassland station at prefecture level.


The grassland component of the project has been very successful and has been enthusiastically supported by the national team. Pasture monitoring and the use of pasture assessment software to integrate monitoring results with other pastoral data and translate the whole, rapidly, into information immediately useable for management and planning decisions was particularly impressive and appreciated by the Animal Husbandry Bureau. [Click for more Details]

The Pastoral Risk Management Strategy document for Qinghai Province has been developed with the following key components and strategy elements:

The key components and strategy elements of
1. Grazing and Pasture Resource Management

Strategy 1. Measuring and monitoring grazing resources
Strategy 2. Managing grasslands

2. Winter Feed

Strategy 3. Household feed and fodder production
Strategy 4. Fodder banks and emergency fodder funds

3. Livestock Production, Breeding and Health

Strategy 5. Animal production and breeding
Strategy 6. Animal health

4. Increasing Herders' Resilience to Pastoral Risk

Strategy 7. Early warning and rapid reaction system for PRM
Strategy 8. Improved housing and production infrastructures (enhanced 4CM)
Strategy 9. Herders' cooperation

5. Policy Frameworks for PRM

Strategy 10 Mainstreaming PRM within a reshaped pastoral economy
Strategy 11.Financing PRM
Strategy 12.Improving governance for PRM

Typical scenes on the Qinghai Plateau
Photo by Steve Reynolds
Qinghai - summer pastures
Photo by Jim Suttie
Summer pastures - sheep on the move
Photo by Jim Suttie
Summer camp
Photo by Jim Suttie
Summer camp: drying herbs
Photo by Jim Suttie
Shifting camp to summer grazing land
Photo by Peter Harris
Motorcycles are replacing horses
Photo by Peter Harris
Qinghai fenced sub-division of winter grazing land
Photo by Peter Harris
Qinghai - herder permanent home
Photo by Peter Harris
Grass reserved for winter
Photo by Peter Harris
Pasture survey: project staff and consultants
take a close look
Photo by Jim Suttie
Quinghai - oats growing in a sheep pen for
winter feed (hay)
Photo by Jim Suttie
Base for oat seed production
Photo by Jim Suttie
Grassland monitoring programme
Photo by Peter Harris
Oat hay store
Photo by Peter Harris
Pikas (Ochotona curzoniae), are serious,
although cute, pasture pests that damage large areas of rangelands
Photo by Peter Harris
Oats growing in a sheep pen
Photo by Steve Reynolds
Oats with vetch
Photo by Steve Reynolds
Harvested oats drying in stooks
Photo by Steve Reynolds
Start of the oat harvest
Photo by Steve Reynolds