Decline and re-emergence of nomadism: Tibetan pastoralists revive a nomadic way of life and production


A. Manderscheid

Department of Geography, University of Oulu, 90014, Oulu, Finland (Tel.: +358-8-553-1695; Fax: +358-8-553-J693;

E-mail: angela.


Received 13 July 2001; accepted 31 January 2002



Key words: Lapland, mobile animal husbandry, nomadism, reindeer husbandry, revival, Tibetan pastoralists






Numerous examples worldwide demonstrate the displacement of a nomadic way of life and economy, with common features in the diverse regional contexts shown. Sometimes the pastoralists can respond with other forms of mobile hording, as for instance the current reindeer husbandry in northern Penno-Scandia or Lapland suggests. An extensive form of herding management has succeeded an intensive one; nowadays the reindeer roam freely nearly all year round, and the reindeer owners live sedentary. Modem technologies support the animal husbandry. However, a decline in nomadism can also be followed by a revival. Records exist about re-emergence from, among others, the Mongolian Republic and the Tibetan plateau. The nomadic lifestyle of Tibetans was displaced, as in the other pastoral regions of China, for two decades. Its re-emergence in one region of the eastern Tibetan plateau in the early 1990s is analysed in this paper. Among the framework conditions which promoted the revival was the return of the livestock as family property. Some revived features of nomadism are identical to the pre-Collectivisation period. Other features were adapted to changed contexts. The revival had further a different impact on those groups which rely exclusively on animal husbandry and those which combine livestock breeding with field cultivation. However, the re-emerged nomadism is already disappearing again. In order to put the issues of mobile animal husbandry into a larger context, some comparative aspects of recent mobile animal husbandry in the pastoral regions of Sichuan province and Lapland are discussed.





New borders, reduction of pasture tenures in favour of arable farmland, industrial projects, exploration of natural resources, nature reserves and sedentarisation projects among the causes which force pastoralists worldwide give up a nomadic lifestyle. Sometimes the pastoralists can respond by resorting to other forms of mobile animal husbandry, as the example of Saami reindeer herders in Europe's Lapland illustrates. After a decline, there follow a revival of nomadic lifestyle, yet such records rare. Revivals have been reported from Mongolia (Bruun, 1996; Humphrey and Sneath, 1999; Müller, 1999; Rasmussen et al., 1999) and the Tibetan plateau (Goldstein and Beall, 1990; Goldstein, 1994; Manderscheid, 1999). Scholz (1995) draws a global thesis on the decline and re-emergence of nomadism and writes: Nomadism was able to develop again and again in a new and original form, at any place and any time, given a certain, regionally specific, ecological and socio-political setting (p. 250).

Nowadays, in academic discussions on pastoralism, the term 'mobile pastoralism' often is favoured to ‘nomadism’ or 'nomadic pastoralism'. Humphrey and Sneath (1999) argue that the very category of nomadism has ceased to be useful analytically. (p. 1). Mobility makes the case for the continuation of pastoralism in the twentieth century. Mobility here is seen as a technique that is applicable in a range of institutions, rather than as a holistic life-style suggested by the word 'nomad' (p. 16). I agree with the statement, yet are in this paper I would like to write about 'nomads'. I argue to  that in the case of Tibetan pastoralists, they have been nomads in the sense of the definition given below until this lifestyle was displaced. Decisive for my argument are the northern features that have been revived which distinguish a nomadic might lifestyle from other forms of mobile animal husbandry, e.g., from mobile pastoralism or ranching management. Being a nomad includes here: (1) practising mainly or solely animal husbandry as a means of subsistence; (2) using natural pastures (rangelands) as the basis of forage; (3) being forced to change the space of activity according to the availability of pastures and the needs of the animals; (4) the husbandry tasks are divided among family members (family enterprise); (5) the economic production is essentially subsistence-based (after Dyson-Hudson and Dyson-Hudson,

1980; Saizman and Galaty, 1990; Scholz, 1994, 1995).

Not all the features listed here are commonly required as prerequisites of nomadism and not all features reflect equally the nomad's self-image. For Tibetan nomads, Goldstein and Beall (1990) point out, for example, that their own self-image focuses primarily on being complete pastoralists (i.e., practising, no farming) rather than on moving their herds (nomadism) or even living in tents, (p. 64). Further, nomadism is understood here as a way of life, which is actually practised, and not as a value orientation (see Saizman and Galaty, 1990). In addition to raising livestock, trading, fishing, hunting, gathering and farming may also be practised, but animal husbandry has to be the main determinant of production and mobility. If the nomads engage in fieldcultivation as a secondary activity, we speak of semi-nomads or agro-pastoralists.

It is not the concern of this paper to examine the conditions under which nomadism reappeared, rather we analyse the re-emerged nomadism in one region on the eastern Tibetan plateau. Detailed investigations on nomadism in Tibet are still rare. This study draws its material from intense field research among Tibetan nomadic groups in the northwest of the Sichuan province during the years 1989-1993. Additional information from another research region was collected during two recent field-stays (2000 and 2001). The revived nomadism is about to vanish again, which poses a question about the future direction of mobile animal husbandry. The issues on the Tibetan plateau should not be discussed as an isolated case, since features of these developments are similar in different regional contexts. For this purpose, the reindeer husbandry in Lapland was chosen, which seems at first sight far-fetched. The regions are far apart, the livestock under discussion is different etc. However, since I live adjacent to the reindeer husbandry area in Finland and have insight into the current matters being discussed and the research being done on this topic, I realized that issues for the herders and topics discussed by experts are quite similar in both of the regions. Examples are the threat of too little and degraded winter pastures, increased livestock numbers and supplementary feeding. Other matters like the transition from a subsistence economy to market production, which started in the Tibetan research area in the 1980s, occurred in Lapland much earlier. Compared to the animal husbandry on the Tibetan plateau, the reindeer husbandry of Lapland is well-studied. The material used here is drawn from publications, mainly in English, and from personal contacts.

The main objective of this paper is to analyse the nomadism which has re-emerged on the eastern Tibetan plateau. A description of the decline of a nomadic way of life and production in Lapland provides the background for a comparative discussion of some aspects of recent mobile animal husbandry in both of the regions.



Decline of nomadism on the Tibetan plateau


Before the nomadic lifestyle was displaced on the Tibetan plateau, about half of the entire Tibetan population lived as nomads. Individual families owned the livestock, and the pasture grounds were used in common, but they were the property of and controlled by landowners (e.g., aristocrats, high lamas, monasteries) or tribal affiliations. Two political events changed the indigenous pastoral production system on the Tibetan plateau completely, just as in other pastoral areas of China (e.g., Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang): the so called 'Liberalisation' of the country by the Red Army, and the reform policies under Deng Xiaoping. This period between 1958 and the early 1980s, will be referred to as the 'Collectivisation period'. Others discuss the impact of this time on the pastoral production systems in Tibet in detail (Clarke, 1987; Goldstein, 1994; Wu Ning, 1999). Here I will point out why the lifestyle of the pastoralists during the Collectivisation period can no longer be considered 'nomadic'.

How far a full collectivisation of all pastoralists could be carried out in the area in question here did not become quite clear.1 The pastoralists were restructured into communes step by step, the domestic animals were collectivised, land tenure of pastures was transferred to the state and the leaders of the centrally administrated communes decided on the animal husbandry management. Some units of the commune were assigned to pasture the livestock. They moved with the herd to the seasonal pastures taking along mobile housing. Sedentary members of the collective took over the milk processing, the production of winter fodder etc. Clarke (1987, p. 35) has described the animal husbandry management during the Collectivisation period for Pemuthang, in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), as follows: The livestock was divided up into four herds for management under four committees, these being the same as the four traditional groups of livestock which had their traditional allocation of pasture, and were moved much as today, up and down the valley according to season. Though each household was allocated to a herd, families could be split up, especially if one member had a different function, such as driving a horse and cart.

This illustrates that some structures of herding management remained the same as in the pre-Collectivisation period, yet the pastoral production system during the Collectivisation period can no longer be called 'nomadic'.

In the late 1970s, the Chinese agrarian policy attempted to reform the agricultural and animal husbandry sector, which brought decollectivization and a turn to a market-oriented economy. The communes were dissolved and the livestock was divided among the former nomads. Central planning was replaced with controlled management on a household level and the families became once again responsible for the livestock and the marketing of their products (household production responsibility system). The pasture tenure remained state property, but was gradually contracted to the households on a leasing base.



Dzamthangs pastoralists revive a nomadic lifestyle


The research in the eastern part of the Tibetan plateau in the year 1989 began with the initial concept of displaced nomadism. I was surprised to find that the life and economic patterns of the pastoralists visited presented themselves as I imagined them to have been before the Collectivisation period.

The Tibetan research area, Dzamthang county, is located in the north-west of Sichuan province (Figure 1). The undulating plateau of the north-east of Dzamthang and the deeply dissected mountainous landscape of the south-west provide the ecological context for diverse land use. The alpine meadows, which stretch from 3,600 m upwards are suited for mobile animal husbandry. Winter pastures and winter houses are located between 3,600 m and 3,800 m. Above this lies the nomads' summer area of activity where they set up their tents and use the adjacent meadows up to 4,500 m as pastures. The zone between 2,650 m and 3,600 m is suitable for arable field cultivation, and the agro-pastoralist groups have fields and permanent houses there. On the whole, animal husbandry is the prevailing sector of production, but more than half of the nomads conduct field cultivation the extent of which varies regionally (Manderscheid, 1998).



After the livestock management returned to the individual household, the animal husbandry tasks were divided again among the family members. The division of labour is clearly gender specific: the duties of women are milking, milk processing and all other tasks in and around the tent. Men carry out the work which leads away from the tent, including the grazing of the livestock, trade and grain milling in the district or settlement centres. In Dzamthang, most children lived mobile with their parents in the early 1990s, and took over animal husbandry tasks. The majority did not attend a school. The older daughters assist in milking, and centrifuging the milk, and the boys take over the herding.



All family members migrate again with the livestock to the seasonal pastures, and live from spring to autumn in a 'black tent' (Manderscheid, 2001). The seasonal migrations of the entire family, as well as the division of animal husbandry tasks among family members, are features of a nomadic lifestyle, and have been revived in Dzamthang.



The livestock of Tibetan nomads consists of yak, sheep, goats and horses, the amount of which varies regionally. In Dzamthang, the number of yak in the herd composition had decreased to 60% in 1975, but reached 80% again in 1985, the same as it had been before the 1950s (Figure 3). The pastoralists of Dzamthang reported that they were proud to be yak breeders and despised small stock. Administrative directives during the Collectivisation period had aimed at increasing the amount of small animals. In the opinion of the state planners, small animals were considered to be more productive then yak. After decollectivisation, due to their value system, the nomads sold the surplus to the neighbouring farming areas south of Dzamthang. With this the families decided to base their herding management on the traditional herd composition.

Additionally, the nomads returned to a subsistence-based economy, which also appeared in Russia and Mongolia after decollectivisation. In China rapid economic differentiation among herders has meant that some are able to use opportunities to their advantage, while others are only subject to market vagaries and depend largely on subsistence production. (Humphrey and Sneath, 1999, p. 57). Such a differentiation on a local level matches the cases of Inner Mongolia, and the pastoral areas of the Tibetan plateau which offer marketing possibilities for nomadic products. In Hongyuan county (see Figure 1) for instance, most nomads are eager to sell milk to the milk powder factory, which was established already in 1956. In Dzamthang, however, there existed only few marketing opportunities in the early 1990s, and the nomads had not much choice other than reviving a subsistence-based economy. Mainly the family consumes the produced goods, and only small amounts are traded for a cash income. An average family, which owns about 60 animals, slaughters one yak a year for their own consumption, and sell or trade 5 or 6 yaks. The income generated is used to procure basic commodities like barley, tea and cloths. Second in importance is the sale of butter. A part of the annual butter production is stored as a hidden reserve, and larger amounts are sold when a need for cash arises, e.g., to pay taxes or to buy a horse. Milk and small animals play no role in trade. On the other hand, the collecting of medicinal herbs (e.g., Fritillaria cirrhosa or padma) and mushrooms (e.g., Tricholoma matsukate) has increased during recent years, and this is directed by market forces. The pine mushroom, which is mainly exported to Japan, is known as 'white gold', and 1 jin (~l/2 kg) was sold for US$ 120 in autumn 2000 on local markets in eastern Tibet (Page, 2000). Trading medicinal herbs and mushrooms is an indicator of an increased interest and need among the nomads for cash income and a market production.

The revitalisation of the nomadic way of life and production in Dzamthang is not a mere copy of the 'old' lifestyle. The nomads adapted some features to the changed ecological, political and economic contexts. This can be illustrated with some further examples: unlike agro-pastoralist, the nomadic groups that relied entirely on animal husbandry (Tibetan: 'Brog pa) did not own winter houses before the Collectivisation period. However, with the revival of a nomadic lifestyle the 'Brog pa did not give up their winter houses. According to recent governmental directives, all families must have a winter house. But quite apart from this, some pastoralists also stated they appreciate the comfort of stable housing during winter. Before the Collectivisation period, the head of the nomadic tribe or the landowner fixed the dates for the seasonal migrations of the nomadic households. Nowadays, the dates are set and controlled by state institutions, like the Animal Husbandry Bureau at the district level. The latest date at which the pastoralists should have left the winter pastures, and the earliest date of return are announced to the families by the head of the settlement. Grain requirements were procured during the Collectivisation period with subsidised grain vouchers (Hang piao) from the State Grain Bureau. Since the phasing out of this grain procurement system in the 1990s, the pastoralists have bought grain from the markets, and direct trade with farmers has been revived. Following the harvest in 1991, I met a nomad who had rented a truck by which he transported grain to the neighbouring county. He had revived the 'old' grain trade between Dzamthang and Serthar. One could assume that the cessation of the grain vouchers system might have lead to greater activity in field cultivation among the agro-pastoralist groups; this, however, has not been the case.



Agro-pastoralists' expand animal husbandry at the expense of field cultivation


What is most remarkable, however, is that the specific feature that most clearly determines nomadism - the animal husbandry or, here, yak-breeding - expanded significantly. Several indicators suggest this. First, the increased number of livestock presented in Chinese statistics should be discussed.2

The number of yak in Dzamthang increased permanently between 1950 and 1985. This trend was interrupted only between 1957 and 1962, and between 1965 and 1970 (Figure 4). The data valid for the entire Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Aba, which governs the Dzamthang county, suggests that the nomads continued to accumulate livestock in the late 1980s (Sichuan Statistical Bureau, 1992). An increase is reported from other inner Asian pastoral areas as well. The aim of most households in all sites appeared to be to increase the number of their animals by consuming or selling as few as possible. (Humphrey and Sneath, 1999, p. 275). The accumulation is motivated by the pastoral strategy that having much livestock guarantees the survival of a sufficient number of animals in bad times, e.g., if natural hazards occur, and wealth on the hoof has a high status value for pastoralists worldwide. Levine (1999) noticed that the pastoralists in the neighbouring Serthar county were, during her research in 1994, reluctant to sell animals for cultural-religious and practical reasons. From the moment the herding management decisions were made again to a certain extent by the pastoralists themselves, they revived such 'old' values.



From a closer look at the trend in the livestock growth rates it becomes clear that the increase is most significant in Dzamthang in those districts where the nomads combine animal husbandry with field-cultivation, although animal husbandry does predominate. The agro-pastoralist families decided to expand animal husbandry at the expense of their secondary form of production, field cultivation. While prior to 1958, the agro-pastoralists occupied only the pastures close to the farming areas, the current enlarged herds make necessary migration to more and more remote rangelands, so that the distances from there to the farming areas increase significantly. The effect is that these families do not migrate regularly any more from the high altitude summer pastures to the fields for weeding, and they let the fields lay fallow every second year instead of cultivating peas as a rotation crop. It even happens that families do not bring in the harvest at all.

The increased importance of mobile animal husbandry in the economic activity of the agro-pastoralists is indicated furthermore by factors such as the permanent houses being left vacant throughout the year in the farming areas (see Figure 5). Before Collectivisation, the houses were the home base of the families. Now they live exclusively in tents and in winter houses, like the pure animal breeders. The farming houses are visited by the head of the household and his wife only for short periods, e.g., in autumn to bring the harvest in and in spring for sowing grain. Older family members who no longer engage in animal husbandry, might live in the completely furnished houses. However, the agro-pastoralists do not want to give up the houses, and young couples build new permanent houses even if their present form of production requires them to live in a tent and winter house.



Changed political contexts allowed this shift towards animal husbandry to occur, but what motivated the agro-pastoralists (Sa ma 'brog) to seek this shift in Dzamthang? Being a 'Brog pa and owning much livestock had high prestige in the old Tibetan society. Downs (1964) reconstructed the traditional relationship between 'Brog pa and Sa ma 'brog in a community now located in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), as it existed before his informants went into exile. All our Tibetan informants gave the impression that the nomad life was prestigeous and their accounts of semi-nomad families suggested that these people attempt in every way possible to imitate nomads in dress and manner, (p. 1118). With their reallocated livestock and less state control, the Sa ma 'brog could concentrate on animal breeding, and work towards the traditionally valued 'Brog pa status. Furthermore, economic reasons motivated the Sa ma 'brog groups in question to decrease field cultivation in favour of animal husbandry. In 1985, with the introduction of the 'contract grain procurement system', the selling price for contracted grains decreased and grain production was not attractive anymore (Schwarz, 1998). Despite price adjustments and subsidies, grain production during the reform era remains a poor investment for household labor and capital. (Veeck and Shaohua, 2000, p. 78). The returns for livestock sales are better than for grain in the whole of China.

In the Mongolian Republic, the attraction of animal husbandry is reflected in the emergence of the so-called 'new nomads'. Following decolletivisation, they had been drawn away from a sedentary lifestyle in the cities or state farms, and started to conduct mobile animal husbandry in the steppe regions (Bruun, 1996; Miiller, 1999).


As we have seen, the nomads of Dzamthang shifted their economic production towards animal husbandry. However, larger stocks did not result in market-oriented production. The example of Hongyuan county with both a milk powder and a meat processing factory illustrates the possible shift to a market production. There, the pastoralists rarely returned to a nomadic lifestyle. The animal husbandry stayed mobile with the root family living a sedentary existence in a permanent house. Pastoral production is directed by market forces. Those pastoralists questioned consider themselves as 'nomads', yet this corresponds more to a value orientation than to an actual lifestyle. Although Honyuan is a 'model' case for state development policy intentions for the pastoral areas of China, it shows that the revival of a 'nomadic lifestyle' is not homogeneous throughout all parts of the Tibetan plateau.

It was the nomadic way of life and production based on a subsistence economy, on the family as the production unit which migrates between seasonal pasture grounds and on large stock, which the pastoralists of Dzamthang could apply successfully as a strategy for survival after the state withdrawal from organizing their lives. However, the well-probed and flexible nomadic way of life and production is threatened with extinction again. The fencing of individual seasonal pasture tenures according to governmental directives, for instance, reduces the mobility of the herd, and encourages sedentary lifestyles. The condition of the natural environment already speaks of the negative impacts of these measures. Furthermore, the increased need for a cash income is inconsistent with a self-subsistent nomadic economy. Some of the young nomads interviewed in recent years were not very eager to continue their lives as nomads under the prevailing conditions. However, most had no vision of alternatives. Some were interested in jobs outside the pastoral sector, especially in trade.



The displacement of nomadic pastoralism in Lapland


The case of a revival of nomadism after displacement is put aside for a moment, and the decline of a nomadic lifestyle in Lapland and the later established animal husbandry system will be described. The area where reindeer husbandry is carried out stretches from Central Norway and Sweden, through the northernmost part of Finland, into the Kola Peninsula in Russia. The Saami occupy about the same living space (Figure 6). As hunters and fishermen they came in the past from the Russian interior and populated Fenno-Scandia. With the increasing scarcity of game, other activities became more important, e.g. those who lived in regions suitable for agriculture started field cultivation. Other groups began to tame reindeer (around 16th century), and became part-time pastoralists. According to Vorren and Manker (1962) reindeer nomadism came as an exclusive form of subsistence from the east to Fenno-Scandia and adapted to existing forms of reindeer breeding. The 17th century was the century of the reindeer, and reindeer husbandry expanded largely (Aikio et al., 1994). Reindeer were kept for meat production and for milking as well.

Even if the (old) lifestyle of all Saami groups is often called 'nomadic', only the lifestyle of those who relied entirely on reindeer husbandry (Mountain Saami and Forest Saami) corresponds to nomadism in the context here.3 Reindeer breeding was and still is valued as 'the' Saami means of livelihood, and the distinctive style of the Mountain Saami makes up much of this image (Aikio et al., 1994; Ingold 1976). However, for most Saami families reindeer breeding cannot provide the main livelihood (see, e.g., Filppa, 1999; Lenstra, 1998). Until the end of the last century, the Saami society was organised in units (Saami: siida) often families who migrated together in a fixed territory, had their animals in a common herd, and their dwellings were set up together (Manker, 1953). Affiliation to a herding co-operative (in Finland known as a paliskunta) was later administratively imposed and gradually replaced the siida-system. In Finland, Finns as well as Saami, own reindeer. Only 30% of the entire reindeer stock is owned by Saami, yet as a source of income, reindeer herding is more important to Saami than to Finns (Kitti, 1999). In Norwegian Lapland, the possession of reindeer is the exclusive right of Saami. This differs from the policies in Sweden where only Saami whose parents were already reindeer breeders are allowed to own reindeer.

The events which led to the displacement of a nomadic lifestyle in Lapland included the closing of international borders, the so-called snowmobile revolution, and the pressure to fixed settlement (Ingold, 1976; Pelto, 1973). With the closure of the Norwegian/Finnish border in 1853, and the Finnish/Swedish border in 1889, the traditional migration routes of the Mountain Saami were cut off (Helle, 1966). The Reindeer Pasture Agreement between Sweden and Norway from 19194 allowed only in the northernmost districts in Norway summer migrations of Mountain Saami from the fjell zone to the coniferous forest zone over the border (Manker, 1953; Vorren and Manker, 1962). The pastoralists'responses have been described by Lenstra (1998):

The Saami reindeer breeders in the border area of the three countries were forced to make choices and seek solutions which illustrate in a singular way their adaptability (change of citizenship), and spirit of enterprise (search for new pasture areas). As consequences of a demarcation of the borders, ten reindeer breeding Saami families from the research region Enentekiö moved to the north-eastern part of Finnish Lapland. For many others this meant giving up reindeer breeding as a mode of existence, (p. 354).

Due to Lapland's prolonged snow cover of seven or eight months, Saami herders on skis and herding dogs directed the herd in the past, and reindeer drawn sleds were used during migration trips for transportation. In the early 1960s,  the first snowmobiles entered into reindeer pastoralist's life; this significantly changed herding management. While the reindeer earlier followed the pastoralist on migration trips, the herder with the snowmobile drives the animals from behind by restricting the path of escape (Pelto, 1973). The use of snowmobiles helps to save time e.g. to round up the animals, and it increases the mobility of the herders. The distance between residential place and herd could be made longer, which allowed more sedentary lifestyles. In Norway, for instance, the families settled in Tundra villages like Kautokeino (see Figure 6), a former winter activity space. The herding became entirely men's work. Children could attend school all year round, and women and children lost herding knowledge (Paine, 1994). The lifestyle of the reindeer owning households is no longer nomadic, though the animal husbandry system remains mobile. The earlier intensive herding management has step by step been displaced by more extensive forms of management, which Ingold (1980) calls a 'ranching economy'. Characteristic of a ranching system is that the animals are kept in huge fenced pasture tenures, the input of labour is small and they are no longer kept for self consumption but to sell on markets. Nowadays, the reindeer in Lapland roam at liberty most of the year. Natural borders and permanent fences are used in an attempt to keep apart the animals of the different herding cooperatives. According to the size of the herding co-operative, the fenced areas in Finland are between 300 and 2,500 km2. At least two times a year, the animals are rounded up, in summer to mark the calves, and in early winter to select animals for marketing. They are no longer domestic animals but 'semidomesticated'. It is difficult to imagine that in Lapland nomadism could re-emerge as happened on the Tibetan plateau.



Comparative aspects of recent mobile animal husbandry on the Tibetan plateau and in Lapland


The re-emerged nomadic way of life and production in Dzamthang could only represent a strategy for survival in the mid-term. New governmental directives and the increased need for a cash income force the herders and those responsible for developing and administrating the pastoral areas to respond to those changed conditions. In order to discuss here mobile animal husbandry in a larger context, some aspects of its recent forms on the eastern Tibetan plateau and in Lapland are discussed comparatively.



Before the 1950s, the lifestyle of about one half of the entire Tibetan population was nomadic, while in Lapland only the Mountain Saami and Forest Saami, and only then over three or four centuries, can be considered as nomadic. In spite of this difference, for both population groups the possession of livestock and mobile animal husbandry hold a high cultural value, even among the groups other than the actual pastoralists. The animal husbandry in both of the regions is conducted in sparsely populated regions, and animal husbandry has a significant importance in maintaining those marginal regions inhabited (Filppa, 1999). Natural pastures or rangelands provide the source of forage for the livestock, and the animals move between seasonal pastures grounds. Distinct differences between the regions in question must be taken into account as well. In Tibet the natural pastures are rarely in competition with other forms of land-use. The rangelands used in Lapland as pastures have to compete with agriculture, forest industry, tourism, nature reserves, hydropower plants, industrial enterprises and peak sports men. Both regions have cold winters, which play a decisive role in herding management. While the winters in Lapland bring low temperatures and a high snow cover, the biggest threats on the eastern Tibetan plateau are fierce winds, and snowfalls in early spring after the yak calves and lambs are born already. One disastrous winter and the resulting lack of natural fodder can delete the entire stock of a family in both regions, so that they lose their base for production. In Lapland, as well as in some regions on the Tibetan plateau, the lack of suitable winter pastures causes problems. This leads to supplementary feeding in winter, which in times past was not commonly practised by the pastoralists. Since the 1970s, in Finnish Lapland the reindeer have been fed with hay, silage and commercial feed mixtures (pellets) either on the terrain or in fenced enclosures. The livestock owners usually purchase the feed (Maijala and Niemien, 2001). In Finland, supplementary feedings constitutes 10-30% of the annual fodder need. The impacts of supplementary feeding, such as negative health consequences, are much discussed. The feeding leads again to a closer connection between the reindeer owner and the animals, and implies an intensification of herding management. It causes a further loss of reindeer knowledge (J. Kumpula, personal comment, 2001). Unlike in Finland, supplementary feeding is forbidden in Norway. On the Tibetan plateau supplementary feeding was introduced during the Collectivisation period. Nowadays, every Tibetan pastoralist household must reserve a certain amount of pasture ground near the winter house for hay cutting. Forage is hay and sometimes peas, all produced by the herders. Yak refuse to take silage or commercial feed mixtures. In the Aba Prefecture, the plot reserved for hay making is 5 mu per family (15 mu =: 1 ha). The stored hay can supply only needy animals, like young and weak animals, and disaster winters lead every time to big losses of animals despite the forage (Miller, 2000). Whether an increase in supplementary feeding in winter is a suitable response to the hazards on the Tibetan plateau is still in question.

In Lapland, extensive forms of management with a high application of technical equipment followed the earlier intensive nomadic animal husbandry. One pre-condition for this shift was that the reindeer are no longer kept for milk but exclusively for meat production. The main product of yaks remains milk, which demands per se intensive herding management. In Lapland the nomadic way of life transformed largely into the occupation of livestock owner'. The reindeer are no longer kept for self-subsistence but as a market commodity, which brings with it a different attitude towards the herd. However, the pastoralist approach is more multifaceted than suggested above, as Paine describes (1994):

In respect to livestock rearing, the fundamental question is whether the herd is an intrinsic value for a pastoralist or a market commodity. Certainly, and unsurprisingly, the market factor has increasing importance. However, it is the qualifying factors, which are of interest. All whom I knew held to both values: intrinsic and market, (p. 15).



Central slaughterhouses have been established; these have had to be built since 1995 in Finland according to EU-directives. Most of the reindeer meat remains in Lapland, which can partly be explained by ineffective marketing-strategies (K. Nakkalajarvi, personal comment, 1999). The demand for reindeer meat in southern Fenno-Scandia, as well as in central Europe is still growing. 'Clean' reindeer meat was in demand from Germany for example during the mad cow disease period (Korhonen, 2001).

A shift to market-oriented production in the early 1990s in Dzamthang can only be identified by the collection of medicinal herbs and mushrooms as a side-product, a response to an increased demand on the market. This was intended to change with the establishment of a meat-processing factory which opened in 1995. Nomads asked in 1991 and 1992 were not very enthusiastic about the planned factory. They did not like the idea of selling animals to the factory, often due to cultural-religious reasons, and they were concerned about imposed state quotas. The factory closed down after two or three years. According to the opinion of a former county official (personal comment in 2001), the factory could not buy enough livestock, and it was planned on too big a scale. Lacking recent data from Dzamthang, it is difficult to judge whether a reluctance to sell live animals is still determining the pastoral economy. The implementation of new taxes and imposed measures like the fencing of the pasture tenures, which the nomads must pay for themselves, force all livestock owners to sell many animals. Recently interviewed pastoralists, in regions with existing marketing possibilities like Hongyuan county and Dzoge county, however, did not underpin a reluctant attitude towards trading livestock. The marketing of the pastoral goods is still a major problem in China. Beside infrastructure difficulties, beef and milk does not belong widely to the diet of the Chinese. However, the demand is rising.

In Lapland, technical equipment supports largely the reindeer husbandry. For rounding up, snowmobiles are used, in summer cross-country motorbikes (see Figure 7) and all-terrain vehicles, occasionally light airplanes and helicopters. The application of modem technologies like mobile phones and locating devices supports the herding, and this development is still ongoing.5

During the Collective period in China, an attempt was made to apply agricultural machinery in animal husbandry, but the use did not continue after privatisation. In the present day, only little technical equipment is used by the Tibetan pastoralists. Solar panels are found in many tents, and provide enough electricity for a bulb and a radio. Motorbikes, which constitute 'the' status symbol for young nomads, are beginning to replace horses, though not yet in herding management. The nomads use them to reach the market places and to transport goods. Gasoline is sometimes difficult to get, and in times of shortage the prices rise dramatically. The same occurred when the snowmobile was introduced in Lapland. "The application of cost-intensive equipment leads to an increasing dependence on exchange relations. However, the possession of a snowmobile and the resulting expenditures are nowadays considered as an unavoidable cost factor for Lapland's reindeer owners.

From 1898 on, membership in a herding co-operative was prescribed for all reindeer owners in Finland. The co-operative deals with matters like joint gathering and separations of reindeer in early winter, fence-construction,6 pasture regulation, registration of earmarks, the marketing of the reindeer products and even decides who can own reindeer. In China, matters concerning animal husbandry are decided by governmental bodies on different administrative levels and the policies change constantly. The possibilities of the Tibetan nomadic family to plan and determine the husbandry management are limited, in spite of the household responsibility system. In terms of pastoral economy for instance, all profits are skimmed off by different type of taxes, state quotas and imposed investments like fence building. The pastoral family has only little chance to save enough money in order to invest in a new business. Paine (1996) discusses the role of the state in the reindeer pastoralism for Norway, where the state took over control of herds and personnel in response to incommensurate herd growth. Paine disapproves, and models instead a herd management in which the pastoralists resolve problems with a flexible self-adjustment to pastures as a limiting factor.





This paper discussed the re-emergence of nomadism on the Tibetan plateau, in Dzamthang county, after it had been displaced for two decades. Some features were revived which are identical to the lifestyle before the Collectivisation period, others were adapted to the changed political and socio-economic contexts. The agro-pastoralists shifted their production towards animal husbandry at the expenses of field cultivation, which also caused changes in their settlement patterns. The revival is not homogeneous throughout all areas of the Tibetan plateau, but occurred mainly in regions which are marked by a lack of marketing opportunities. Dzamthang's pastoralists succeeded in surviving by resorting to a nomadic lifestyle after the state withdrew from organizing their lives, at least in the mid-term, yet nomadism is threatened by extinction again. This is unfortunate because this flexible form of production provides suitable land-use for marginal regions which can rarely be used in other ways. Nomadism, and the value accorded wealth on the hoof, however, stands in contradiction to the market-oriented economy in China, and a subsistence-based economy stands in contradiction to a society in which cash is needed to pay for basic needs like grain and hospital bills, and to pay taxes. Further, recent government directives, which attempt to improve animal husbandry in Sichuan, are inconsistent with nomadism, and young nomads spoken to were not enthusiastic about continuing their lives as nomads. Nomadic parents who have been met recently encourage their children to continue their school education in order to find other job possibilities.

The recent form of reindeer husbandry in Lapland with its extensive hording management and the application of technical equipment might appear to many as modern and contemporary. However, the high input of cost-intensive equipment, supplementary feeding but also state subsidies raised the production costs astronomically. This might result in only those herders with large stock reindeer husbandry having this as the exclusive means of livelihood. For an increasing number of reindeer-owners, animal husbandry will become a secondary source of income, or they give it up completely.

In conclusion, I would like to stress one feature which I consider to be an important issue for the future direction of mobile animal husbandry on the Tibetan plateau. Local bodies, like the hording co-operatives in Lapland, through which the livestock owners decide on matters concerning animal husbandry directly or indirectly thanks to its strong lobby in the national policies, are still missing in the pastoral areas of China in order to carry out mobile animal husbandry in accordance with the needs and knowledge of the animal owners.





An extract of this paper, which focused on the revival of nomadism on the eastern Tibetan plateau, was presented at the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS) in Leiden, Netherlands, in June 2000. I am grateful to Toni Huber for comments on this part of the text, and to Jouko Kumpula who commented the part on reindeer husbandry. The research project in Sichuan in 1990-1992 was carried out in cooperation with the Chengdu Institute of Biology and was financed by the Volkswagen-Stiftung, Germany. More recent field trips to Dzoge county, which were financed by the Academy of Finland, provided comparative data. Thanks to the anonymous reviewers who gave thoughtful comments on an earlier version of this article.




1During the field-research in the early 1990s, the nomads as well as the officials did not give much information.

2The absolute numbers are less important than the trend.

3For other Saami groups like the Coast Saami or River Saami, reindeer husbandry never was the main means of subsistence.

4The Reindeer Pasture Agreement was revised in 1950.

5Paine (1994, p. 155) asks at what point the spiraling of competition through mechanisation will stop.

6Round-up fences, enclosures for winter feeding and fences as borders.





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