UN expert on food tells government of China not to pressurize herders to sell their herd and resettle
The United Nation Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr.Olivier De Schutter, underlined that "herders should not, as a result of the measures adopted under the tuimu huancao policy, be put in a situation where they have no other options than to sell their herd and resettle."The expert released his Preliminary Observations and Conclusions today upon the completion of his mission to the People's Republic of China (PRC) from 15 - 23 December 2010.The expert advised the government of PRC to engage in meaningful consultations with herding communities, assess past and current policies, examine all available options in order to combine the knowledge of the nomadic herders of their territories. Tibetan nomads and farmers are entitled to their means of subsistence as stated in article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by the PRC in 2001.
The official policies of tuimu huancao ("removing animals to grow grass") and tuigeng huanlin ("Returning Farmland to Forest") have created havoc in the lives of rural Tibetans. The policies have made huge negative impacts on the lives of rural Tibetans since 2000 as the state forcibly enforces the policies to displace rural Tibetans in hundreds of thousands. The Tibetan nomads have been removed forcibly from their traditional dwelling places and often thrown into government made concrete houses, often with partial funding, with little subsidy as compensation for a limited time period. The knowledge and skills of the nomadic families passed over generations in living a dignified live in harmony with nature have been made useless through the official policies and they face enormous hardships as state's paltry compensation quickly runs out and lack of skill makes it hard for them to live in concrete houses and being made to indulge in urban economy by the state as shop keepers, drivers or construction workers.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) in its June 2007 report No One Has the Liberty to Refuse on the forcible relocation of Tibetan herders in Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and the "Tibet Autonomous Region" recommended the government of PRC to impose a moratorium on all resettlements until a mechanism reviewing the resettlements, and its negative impact on the rights of herders, is put in place.
Following is extracted from the Special Rapporteur's Preliminary Observations and Conclusions under the heading Challenge 2. Ensuring Security of Tenure and Access to Land.
Nomadic herders in Western Provinces and Autonomous Regions, especially in the Tibet (Xizang) and Inner Mongolian Autonomous Regions, are another vulnerable group. The Grassland Law adopted in 1985 both inorder to protect grassland and in order to modernize the animal husbandry industry towards commodification has now been complemented by a range of policies and programmes, including tuimu huancao ("removing animals to grow grass") and tuigeng huanlin ("Returning Farmland to Forest"). These programmes, part of the 1999 Western Development Strategy (xibu da kaifa), seek to address the degradation of pasture lands and control disasters in the low lands of China. They include measures such as grazing bans, grazing land non-use periods, rotational grazing and accommodation of carrying capacity, limitations on pastures distribution, compulsory fencing, slaughter of animal livestock, and the planting of eucalyptus trees on marginal farmland to reduce the threat of soil erosion. While there is little doubt about the extent of the land degradation problem, the Special Rapporteur would note that herders should not, as a result of the measures adopted under the tuimu huancao policy, be put in a situation where they have no other options than to sell their herd and resettle.
The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights prohibits depriving any people from its means of subsistence, and the 1992 Convention on Biodiversity acknowledges the importance of indigenous communities as guarantors and protectors of biodiversity (Art. 8 j). China has ratified both of these instruments.The Special Rapporteur encourages the Chinese authorities to engage in meaningful consultations with herding communities, including in order to assess the results of past and current policies, and examine all available options, including recent strategies of sustainable management of marginal pastures such as the New Rangeland Management (NRM) in order to combine the knowledge of the nomadic herders of their territories with the information that can be drawn from modern science. The Special Rapporteur also encourages the Chinese authorities to invest in rehabilitating pasture, and to support remaining nomads with rural extension. The potential of livestock insurance programmes should also be explored, as tested successfully in Mongolia. Such programs, which pay nomads to restock and recover after a major disaster, encourage nomads to keep herds at much smaller scale as they would not fear losing their herding activity after such disasters if covered by such insurances.