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Local experiences and contested meanings of the Chinese 'grain for green' land conversion programme in an agro-pastoralist Tibetan community

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The Sloping Land Conversion Programme (SLCP or 'Grain for Green') forms one part in a suite of programmes focused on 'ecological construction' in minority areas of Western China. It aims to increase vegetation and reduce poverty by providing payments to households for retiring agricultural and grazing land to plant trees and grass. This paper examines how SLCP is being experienced and perceived in one agro-pastoral Tibetan community in Sichuan Province on the eastern Tibetan Plateau, and focuses on livelihoods impacts, environmental sustainability, and local versus state meanings. Participants were motivated by purely financial reasons, but some, especially poorer households, were concerned about impacts on livelihoods. Respondents questioned the environmental impacts and rationale of SLCP given the low survival rates of trees and lack of incentives for long-term management. There were barriers to moving to off-farm work alongside a resistance to leaving a subsistence livelihood base and agro-pastoral lifestyle. Positive views about the policy's environmental and wellbeing benefits were reserved for plantations on unproductive land. Local responses to SLCP highlight issues with wider state-led policies that expropriate land and resources and privilege economic valuation of the environment.
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Keywords: Environmental policy; Tibet; livelihoods; pastoralism; payment for ecosystem services

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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  • Nomadic Peoples is an international journal published by the White Horse Press for the Commission on Nomadic Peoples, International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences. Its primary concerns are the current circumstances of all nomadic peoples around the world and their prospects. Its readership includes all those interested in nomadic peoples, scholars, researchers, planners and project administrators.
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