Sociocultural and Ecological Systems of Pastoralism in Inner Asia: Cases from Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia in China and the Pamirs of Badakhshan, Afghanistan

  • Karim-Aly S. Kassam
  • Chuan Liao
  • Shikui Dong


In pastoral societies, economic and ecological aims are not necessarily in conflict. These societies, through mobility, engage different ecological niches as a livelihood strategy. Specific case studies from Inner Asia indicate that instead of seeking to replace pastoralism as an ecological profession through forced sedentarization, governments should seek to enhance its historically proven potential for food and livelihood security. The case from the Altay Mountains and the Tian Shan documents the effect of sedentarizing pastoral communities, resulting in the removal of sociocultural and ecological diversity, with profound consequences on income. It is an example of the central government asserting administrative authority in the name of ecological restoration while pursuing strictly an instrumental agenda of economic extraction of key renewable and nonrenewable resources. The case from Inner Mongolia shows increased economic and ecological vulnerability of pastoral societies caused by government-induced sedentarization programs but also illustrates the adaptive capacity of pastoral institutions under such policies. The final case, from the Pamirs, shows that under conditions of political and economic stress, interactions between diverse ecological professions such as farmers and herders is central to livelihood and food security through mutual dependence. It is the basis for survival.


Food Security Social Vulnerability Tianshan Mountain Livelihood Strategy Economic Vulnerability 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and American Indian and Indigenous Studies ProgramCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Michigan - Ann ArborAnn ArborUSA
  3. 3.School of EnvironmentBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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