Progress report from Inner Mongolia

Progress report from Inner Mongolia

13 November 1997

"Chinese scientists have been engaged in a three-year survey of the rare Relict Gull and other waterfowl in desert wetlands of the Ordos Highland in Inner Mongolia, and they have determined that the saline lake Taolimiao-Alashan Nur is distinctly of international importance. A SGF grant of SFr 11,500 will assist preparations for the designation of this site to the Ramsar List and the development of a management plan. A brief report on their work at Taolimiao-Alashan Nur appears in Ramsar Newsletter number 20."

That's the text of the summary report of the Small Grants Fund allocation awarded by the Standing Committee in October 1994 for work at Taolimiao-Alashan Nur. In this report, He Fen-qi of the Endangered Species Scientific Commission, one of the scientists engaged in continuing work at the site, provides at update and describes an interesting application of the Trickle Up Programme. In his cover letter to Rebecca D'Cruz, 30 October 1997, he pointed out that "in many different places in China, wetlands are under over-utilization while the habitats become smaller and more degraded," which thus increases the importance of "coordinating conservation and development or, simply to say, of achieving wise use."

Micro-Credits for Conservation Effort around the Taolimiao-Alashan Nur of Inner Mongolia, China

Following the successful experiences of the Trickle Up Programme performed by the International Crane Foundation (The ICF, headquartered at Baraboo of Wisconsin. USA) in Caohai Nature Reserve of Guizhou Province, SW China, another Trickle Up Programme was initiated around the Taolimiao-Alashan Nur on the Ordos Highland of western Inner Mongolia, China, in hopes of, by providing micro-credits to the local people for poverty alleviation, reducing pressures of human activities on the environment and hence benefiting the preservation and succession of the natural habitats.

Since the discovery in the early 1990s of the large breeding colony of the globally threatened Relict Gull (Larus relictus) at the Taolimiao-Alashan Nur (T-A Nur), more and more attention has been paid to the conservation of wetland habitat of the T-A Nur. Now the T-A Nur is supporting 40% or even greater of the worldwide population of the Relict Gull, and the implementation of the Small Grants Fund project, provided by the Ramsar Convention Bureau, for the preparation of conservation management for the T-A Nur, raises hopes that the location will soon be included on List of Wetlands of International Importance as a new Ramsar Site in China.

In delimiting the proposed nature reserve, we quite recognized that, if we cannot find a proper way of helping the local people essentially to change their tradition of extensive cultivation and husbandry into wise use of the limited natural resources in the desert and semi-desert environment in Ordos, pressures by human being on the habitats will become greater as the local population increases, while the strategy of sustainable development, both for the natural habitats and for the economy of the local community, would hardly be realized.

Wall-poster set up near T-A Nur for education, donated by WWF-Hong Kong. Photo: He Fen-qi

Much gratitude should be given to the Trickle Up Programme (the TUP), an international organization headquartered in New York that provides micro-credits to families in developing countries for poverty alleviation, who brought us a good opportunity to involve people in the local community around the T-A Nur by participating in such a project for achieving sustainable development and eventually for the harmony between people and nature.

In fact, we have attempted several different kinds of things whilst trying to start the Trickle Up Programme, such as holding a training course on carpet hand-making, helping families to develop their domestic animal culturing, teaching them how to plant herb medicines, assisting them in running small business, etc. But it seems that all the efforts are not enough to link all those 10 families with the TUP's support to run some business under a relatively more integrated model of management and thereby, via the change of their producing activities, to make them objectively involved in the conservation effort on wetland habitats.

Virtually, we found out a rather practical method, i.e. to let the (State-run) Bo'erjianghaizi Sand-control Station, which will be the conservancy of the core areas of the proposed nature reserve, act as the organizer to sign a contract with the Foreign Trade Company of the League on manufacturing wicker baskets and other works for export purpose.

By this way. the Sand-control Station organized those 10 TUP families, invited specialists to the location for weaving-skill training, bought necessary tools for the families, and, on the whole, provided and will have been providing to them row wicker materials in quantity for manufacturing.

Members of a Trickle Up Programme Family weaving wicker baskets

After 2-3 weeks’ training, most of the people in the families can weave baskets of different size quite well and now the first products of wicker baskets were picked up in boxes ready for exporting.

The implementation of this TUP project makes it possible for the managers of the nature reserve to be more concerned about the life style of the local community, and be able to organize the local people by inviting them partly participating in the work and business of the nature reserve – when giving the local people the training course, an education on natural conservation was also given by means of films and posters, while the contract signed for wicker basket manufacturing also included one extra promise by the TUP families to the Sand-control Station: no longer to over-use those wetland habitats and resources.

It is now during the fall harvesting season, and when it gets over, the long winter in northern China will give quite a time to those first 10 TUP families implementing their program and at the same time to the staff of the nature reserve giving more education on wetland conservation amongst the people in the local community. We look forward to their success.

-- reported by He Fen-qi, Endangered Species
Scientific Commission, 19 Zhongguancun Lu, Haidian,
Beijing, China