icrn phw energy cse dte gobar times rwh csestore iep aaeti

Horses, pigs and climate change

Posted on: 26 Aug, 2013

Amongst the Nakhi community in China's Yunan province where small farmers, who produced food from biodiverse crop cum livestock farms, have been made to give way to large-scale industrial agro-livestock complexes

In June this year, we were in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China, to participate in the meeting of the Indigenous People’s Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA), which was hosted this year by the Nakhi Indigenous people of Meiquan, China, in collaboration with the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy. Lijiang, listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage site, is situated at an altitude of 8000 feet , and was an important town on the ancient Horse and Tea trading routes from China, through Tibet and into India.

The most interesting part of our visit was spending two days with the Nakhi community, one of China’s officially recognised Ethnic Minorities, in their village perched at 9000 + feet, at the foothills of the majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. These villages once completely self-sufficient in food and brimming with diverse crops and animals, have now, in response to the macro-market reform era / policies of China, completely converted their once thriving agriculture livelihoods to an economy that is anchored around tourism. Lijiang and surrounding villages of the Nakhi people, are a major tourist destination for the rest of China.

We were stunned to see villages with twice the number of horses as people. Here the horses are reared to carry tourists up and down and through the hills and valleys of the region. Instead of diverse food crops, most fields have been converted to pastures to feed the horses. Many intricate indigenous agriculture methods and practices suitable for cultivating crops at these high altitudes with limited precipitation, have vanished, and people have begun to complain about the acute water scarcity and streams drying up.

Walking through the villages, we finally spotted one of the famous pigs or hogs of the region. The Nakhi women shared that till about fifteen years ago each home reared between 10-15 pigs, and women sold the young piglets earning good money. All the pork of Lijiang came from these local villages. On our visit in 2013, with difficulty we found 1 pig. Most people had sold off their backyard pigs, which was evidently a direct fallout of China’s aggressive market reform policies of the last 25 years, aimed at industrialising agriculture and livestock production.

Last year (2012), whilst participating in FAO’s Regional Policy Forum Meeting, titled “Asian Livestock: Challenges, Opportunities and Responses”, I heard the Chinese delegate proudly speak about the impact of China’s agriculture reforms which had resulted in massive expansion of the holding size of Chinese hog farms, accompanied by a rapid decline of backyard hog producers. The share of specialized household production has risen rapidly while large-scale integrated industrial units had also experienced growth. The share of hogs slaughtered on farms with less than 40 pigs declined rapidly from 73 percent in 2002 to 34 percent in 2010. In another study from Sichuan Province, it was reported that almost 32 percent of smallholders exited from pig production in just one year due to continuing rural-urban migration, rising wage costs, price volatility and high risk in the hog business due to disease outbreaks. The Ministry of Agriculture predicted a continuation of this trend where large pork production companies would soon become the mainstay of cheap pork production to feed China, with the complete extinction of small farmers and their hogs .

The lone pig in that Nakhi village is testimony of this massive global project underway to displace small farmers who produce food from their bio-diverse crop cum livestock farms and fields, not only in China, but across the global south, including here in India. In their place, large industrial agri-livestock corporate complexes are being wooed by governments around the world to set up shop, and feed the world with cheap factory farmed pork, chicken, meat, milk…….

The Nakhi community are witnessing shorter periods of snow cover, and the melting of glaciers that once covered their mountains. This is further aggravated with a tourist economy that may in the short run be economically viable, but in the long run is an ecological nightmare. The tourist economy, reported to be viable for another 30 years, has failed to build the resilience of communities to respond to the challenges of climate change, and is additionally adding to the stress of these fragile eco-systems. The IPCCA workshop, appropriately titled Reframing the Debates on Climate Change and Indigenous people, triggered reflection and dialogue between the Nakhi people and their Indigenous sisters and brothers from India, Thailand, Equador, Peru and the Pacific-North America, who asserted that indigenous people have the power to respond to climate change challenges through the resilience of their traditional knowledge.

Postscript- I failed to mention that this so-called “cheap “ food, from industrial farmed animals, is produced after destroying forests, lands, air, and waters around the world, adding to global warming , and the resulting melting snow that is being experienced by the Nakhi people, who sold their pigs, and now purchase the factory farmed pork. The concentrates to feed these factory farmed animals, have replaced fields of food some where else in the world, and then travelled thousands of miles, to feed such factory farmed animals. These products are cheap , because they do not internalise the true costs of production, nor the costs of destroying mother earth


Pig farming is somehow popular in the Asian countries. But horse farming is not popular enough in the Asia. But it's gaining popularity gradually. Thanks for the post.

26 January 2014
Posted by
Tanmay Roy

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

(Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.)

Sign in to post

More Blog Posts by Sagari R Ramdas


Glacier hydrologist at International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development based in Nepal
Institute of Public Health, Bengaluru
Senior advocate at Supreme Court of India
Convener of Alliance Against Conflict of Interest
Professor of Economics and Social Sciences at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore
Senior associate of the Asia Program at Rights and Resources Initiative
Medical practitioner
CSE Affiliate (Right to Clean Air Campaign)
Programme Manager, ICIMOD
Resource Specialist, ICIMOD
Research Associate, CSE
Sustainability and CSR practitioner
Senior researcher with Accountability Initiative at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi
Director, Policy Research & Advocacy, with Child Rights and You (CRY)
Environment Research and Action Collective (Himdhara) HP
Executive Director, National Foundation for India (NFI) and is also the convener of National Social Watch Coalition
Associate Director, Media Resource Unit,CSE
Freelance reporter
Engagement Coordinator and Researcher, Project Survival Media
Environmentalist with a long association with the Appiko movement in Uttara Kannada
Consultant with the CSE
Deepak Pani is secretary, Gram Swaraj, Baripada, Mayurbhanj, Odisha
Works for non-profit South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)
Architect and urban designer with the CSE
Rationalist and president of the Federation of Rationalists Association of India
Bidyut Mohanty is founder and secretary of SPREAD, based in Koraput
Researcher with the Nature Conservation Foundation
Affiliation: Fellow, Rights and Resources Initiative
Independent researcher
Research Associate, Industry & Environment (CSE)
Phd candidate, UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design
Senior Programme Manager, Regional Centre for Development Cooperation
Director Programmes, Keystone Foundation
Senior Research Associate, Industry and Environment, CSE
RBI Chair Professor of Economics
Sustainable Finance Project Officer
Assistant Professor, TISS, Mummbai
National Institute of Malaria Research, Guwahati
Director of Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhi Nagar
Manager of Médecins Sans Frontières's Access Campaign in India
Gujarat-based environment activist
Consultant, CSE
Independent researcher working on poverty, public public policy and governance
Programme Officer, Renewable Energy Programme at CSE
Researcher with the Centre for Equity Studies in New Delhi
South Asia Program Director at International Rivers
Policy Director at International Rivers
Independent Weather Forecaster, METD WEATHER
National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and former UN water expert
Project Officer, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Renewable Energy Expert
works with Shola Trust, a non-profit involved in nature conservation in the Nilgiri region of South India
Trustee, Save Animals Initiative Sanctuary Trust, Karnataka
Activist and researcher
Activist and researcher
Programme director (HealthBridge Foundation of Canada)
Programme Director, CSE
Professor, NIUA
Earth system scientist
Consultant, Social Sector
Food and nutrition consultant
Assistant Professor, IG Medical College, Shimla
Programme manager, Food Safety and Toxins, CSE
Associate Professor of Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, USA
Visiting professor of economics at Mount Holyoke College, USA
Former Deputy Director at the National Institute of Nutrition Hyderabad
Works with indigenous groups in the Nilgiris and writes about dalits and other marginalised communities
Convenor and Head of Jiye Yamuna Abhiyan
Managing Trustee, Wildlife First
Fellow and Convenor, Centre for Environment and Development Studies
Associate Professor, Ambedkar University
Shuba V Raghavan is an independent energy policy analyst
Professor and Dean, Faculty of Planning, CEPT University
Senior reporter, Down To Earth
Reporter, Down To Earth
Senior Research Associate, CSE
Senior researcher with CSE
Doctoral Candidate, ATREE, Bangalore
Programme Officer, Renewable Energy Programme, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
Co-director, Anthra
Director, Research Centre for Internet and Society
Programme Officer, Right to Clean Air Campaign (CSE)
Research Associate, Green Rating Project (CSE)
Senior Research Associate Waste Management, CSE
Senior Research Associate
Conservation ecologist
Conservation ecologist
Research Associate
Heads the Division of Policy Planning, and Training & Capacity Development at India's National Institute of Disaster Management at IIPA campus in New Delhi
DG, Amity Institute for Herbal and Biotech Products Development
Associate Global Co-ordinator of the Peoples Health
Senior Fellow with SOPPECOM, Pune
Heads League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development
Principal Scientist with NISTADS, New Delhi
Co-founder, Nature Conservation Foundation
Assistant Professor, IISc
Science communicator with Vigyan Prasar, New Delhi
Chief Copy Editor, Down To Earth
Environment Research and Action Collective (Himdhara) HP
Reporter, Down To Earth
Programme Director, CSE
Wildlife biologist
Senior Editor, Down To Earth
Deputy Programme Manager, CSE
News Editor, Down To Earth
Science Editor, Down To Earth
Senior Editor, Down To Earth
Secretary with Vikas Samvad Human Development and Food Rights Resource Center
Deputy Director General, CSE
Features Editor, Down To Earth
Postgraduate student of Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the National Centre for Biological Sciences
Editor, Down To Earth
Follow us ON
Follow grebbo on Twitter    Google Plus  DTE Youtube  rss