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Sustainability lessons from Tibet

More than 40% of the land is under conservation management, with local people involved and engaged as partners. Daniel Taylor sees many achievements over the past 20 years.

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The most universally accepted definition of sustainable development is meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. What has never been clear is how to reach this goal.

Sustainable development can be viewed as an irascible beast with three heads (environmental, cultural and economic); with three sets of eyes looking in different directions, ears hearing contradictory facts and mouths giving contradictory messages. Out of such argumentation, how can the environmental, cultural and economic goals of sustainable development be reached?

Lessons can be found in Tibet, where the government has placed more than 40% of the land area under conservation management with the direct involvement of local people. This conservation process was initiated in March 1989 with the establishment of the Qomolangma (Everest) Nature Preserve (QNNP). The first major protected area in the world managed without wardens, it relies instead on the stewardship of local people. The QNNP was recognised in 1999 by the United Nations as one of the world’s most successful examples of sustainable development. And, in 2004, it was included in the Man and Biosphere (MAB) network of the UN Educational, Social and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

In 20 years, the QNNP has: 

* Increased population numbers of endangered wildlife, including the snow leopard, wild ass, and blue sheep;

* Improved health, sanitation, education and community-level decision-making for the 318 villages within the protected area through the training of volunteer community-service workers, known as pendebas;

* Developed a network of family-owned hotels to increase local income-generation opportunities;

* Established a well-organised system, using trucks and yaks to remove the trash from the Everest base camp, funded in part with entrance fees;

* Helped to support and restore the ChuWa and Paba temples and Rongbuk monastery;

* Reduced deforestation of fragile mountain juniper through the planting of village tree nurseries and protected the ancient fir forests of the spectacular Gama Valley.

These achievements of nature conservation and socio-economic development required a partnership of government agencies, communities and external actors. The first management plan was accomplished with support from all levels of government, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Tibet Academy of Social Sciences. Future Generations China, the international non-government organisation that also supports China’s youth conservation movement Green Long March (绿色长征), played a major role in training local partners, facilitating more than 40 study tours and educational opportunities in conservation and community development. Most importantly, 86,000 local people -- living in some of the world’s harshest high-elevation conditions and in two of China’s poorest counties -- were called upon to change their behaviours, to stop killing wild animals and stop cutting the juniper.

To encourage conservation stewardship and also to support socio-economic development, Future Generations and the QNNP Management Bureau developed the Pendeba program. “Pendeba” is a new Tibetan word meaning “worker who benefits the village”. Villages within the QNNP nominate a local man and woman to be trained as pendebas and to bring their learning and skills back to their village. Training emphasises basic primary health, sanitation, maintaining tree nurseries and kitchen gardens, conservation concepts and opportunities for income generation. Local people, in extremely remote places, now had a neighbour to whom they could turn for help. To date, 213 pendebas, supported by 20 senior pendebas, have been trained in the QNNP.

The Tibet Department of Science and Technology has since taken notice of the programme as a new direction for sustaining community-based services and linking community development directly with nature conservation. In 2002, the concept was expanded to the Four Great Rivers region, the world’s fourth-largest protected area in south-eastern Tibet, including all of Chamdo and Linzhi prefectures. Alongside Future Generations, the Tibet Department of Science and Technology has trained more than 400 pendebas in animal husbandry, greenhouse construction, kitchen gardens, sanitation, the use of non-timber forest products and primary health. Their story was recently featured by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, available here.

Both the QNNP and Four Great Rivers represent a new model of large-scale community-based nature conservation. The core feature of this model is that it defines protected areas using political boundaries (four counties in the case of the QNNP and two prefectures in the case of Four Great Rivers).  Conservation is placed in the context of the existing administrative structure, eliminating the need for a separate management structure and dramatically reducing costs. The most important result is that the local people are engaged as partners—each person’s job description (whether farmer, school teacher, village leader or health worker) is redefined to include conservation.

The other significant benefit is that both nature conservation and community-based development adapt to local conditions and environments. In places as ecologically diverse as Tibet, this is essential. Counties adapt their management plans around specific conservation goals and needs. Pendeba training topics and strategies also vary in response to local interests and priorities.

These many lessons from Tibet are being extended now by Future Generations across China through the Green Long March and Model Eco-Communities projects. They are also shared in greater detail in the book Across the Tibetan Plateau: Ecosystems, Wildlife and Conservation, by Robert Fleming, Dorje Tsering, and Liu Wulin.

First published in English by WW Norton in 2007, Across the Tibetan Plateau was recently launched in Tibetan and Chinese editions. The Tibetan version is published by the China Tibetology Publishers, and the Chinese version by the Shanghai Far East Publishers. (The January 2009 books launch was hosted by Future Generations China and the Science and Technology Department of the Tibet Autonomous Region, with assistance from the China Tibetology Research Centre.)

More details are available online at www.future.org and www.futuregenerations.org.cn

 

Daniel Taylor is president of Future Generations and Future Generations Graduate School. He has been engaged in social change and conservation for four decades, with particular focus on empowering communities and on trans-border conservation. Taylor holds a PhD degree in development planning from Harvard University.

 Homepage photo by FutureGenerations/CHINA

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评论通过管理员审核后翻译成中文或英文。 最大字符 1200。

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评论 comments

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

野驴

文章中关于“野驴”的链接所指向的是中亚野驴。在西藏发现的是藏野驴,英文名称是Equus kiang,藏语中叫做“kiang”。以下是关于藏野驴的链接:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiang

(xiulu翻译)

wild ass

the hyperlink in the article to wild ass goes to the onager or Asian wild ass. The wild ass found in Tibet is the Tibetan wild ass, Equus kiang. The Tibetan name is "kiang".
Here is a link to the Tibetan wild ass.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiang

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

太好了

很高兴听到新一代研究院带来的这一激动人心的消息。毋庸置疑,当地组织在西藏自然保护中扮演着关键的角色。但是,我们要清晰的了解,哪些是这一地区自然保护中的关键问题,然后才在该地区计划并实施多方对话的战略。我完全赞同你的意见,就是当地组织在这一对话中能够受惠。否则,这样的对话就没有意义了。

(xiulu翻译)

Great

Nice to hear this excited news from Future Generation. No Doubt that the local community is the key player for nature conservation in Tibetan Area. But, We should have clear mind about what is the key problems for nature conservation in this region and then multiple-player conservation strategy can be designed and implemented in this region. I fully agree with you the local community should benefit from the conservation. otherwise, it is not meaningful.

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

更多消息

“潘德巴”计划听上去挺不错的,很希望看到更多有关这个项目的进展情况,了解更多当地人们的生活,听听他们对自然保护的看法。

Please keep us updated on the program

The Pendebas program sounds like a good idea. I hope to read more about the implementation of this program, as well as the locals' lives and their views on nature preservation.
(translated by Yang bin)

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

最好能去哪里看看

自己和环保已经接触快七年了。
了解了环保的方方面面,但是到现在自己却越发感到迷惑和茫然。
也许需要自己亲身去体验,去实践,才会有更多的体会和感触。
有些东西是书本无法给的,比方说那种切实的感动和认知。
西藏那是一片圣土,是需要我们呵护和敬奉的。

It would be nice to go there and have a look

I have been involved in environmental protection for almost seven years. I understood a lot about environmental protection, but now I feel increasingly lost and puzzled. Perhaps I need to get some personal and practical experience to achieve better understanding. There are certain things that you can not acquire from books, such as actual emotional reactions and perceptions. Tibet is a holy place. We should cherish and honour it.

(translated by xiulu)

Default avatar
匿名 | Anonymous

付出有没有补偿?

鼓励当地居民少杀野生动物,少砍伐森林,直接参与自然保护,政府有没有给予他们适当的经济补偿呢?

Any compensation?

Encourage the local people to stop killing wild animals, stop cutting juniper and directly participate in protecting the environment. But does the government offer any suitable monetary compensation to the local people for this?

(translated by xiulu)