As many as 9,400 herders have been hired in northwest China’s Qinghai Province as part-time guards to protect grasslands from exploitative activities including overgrazing, officials announced.

The herders will oversee 316,000 square kilometers of grasslands before the end of the year, said Gong Aiqi, a Qinghai Department of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry official.

Their roles include checking livestock numbers, enforcement of cattle-reducing policies, patrols and reporting illegal grassland use.

They will be paid 1,400 yuan (225 U.S. dollars) a month, Gong said.

“The policy is not just about motivating herders to protect the grasslands but also a way to increase their income,” he said.

Global warming and excessive herding have degraded Qinghai’s grasslands, jeopardizing local agricultural development and the fragile ecosystem in the source area of the Yangtze, Yellow, and Lancang rivers.

In 2005, local authorities embarked on a 7.5-billion-yuan program to restore grassland ecology, including the resettlement of 50,000 Tibetan herders that was completed in 2011.

Over the past years, central and local governments have been adding funds to the project. This year, Qinghai earmarked 1.95 billion yuan for subsidizing herders who have not grazed livestock on grasslands.

Source: China.org.cn Nov 2012

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