Human Ecology

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 759–771 | Cite as

Individualized Pastureland Use: Responses of Herders to Institutional Arrangements in Pastoral China

  • Lu Yu
  • Katharine Nora Farrell


This paper analyzes increasingly individualized herding behavior after the implementation of a grazing ban policy in northern China based on empirical research in 12 pastoralist villages. The findings reveal that de-collectivization of pastureland has not necessarily led to direct changes in individual land use strategies. Instead, a wider institutional context influenced by the implementation of a grazing ban has led to more individualized herding and increased short-term considerations of profit maximization in the study area, both of which are seen to undermine the sustainable use of pastureland. Based on our observations of herder responses to privatization, the grazing ban and a short experiment with lifting the grazing ban, we propose that the special characteristics of grassland and pastoralism call for institutions that facilitate locally originated pasture land use practice (e.g., co-operative herding, self-organized management) instead of exclusive reliance on a rigidly defined private property regime focused on fixed property boundaries.


Herding behavior Property right Pastureland use Individualized activities China 



We sincerely appreciate the guidance and support received from Professor Konrad Hagedorn in this work and the helpful comments and attention received from Professor Daniel W. Bromley and three anonymous reviewers. We would like to thank Fengyang Li for organizing the survey, Yuanfan Hu and Juan Yi for supporting the survey work, and local people from Yanchi County who catered and housed Ms Yu during her fieldwork and provided much valuable information and advice to us.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Resource Economics, Faculty of Agriculture and HorticultureHumboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia AmbientalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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