Like many pastoralists around the world, until recently most Tibetan herders have not been able to participate actively in regional planning and decision-making processes. In addition, with the recent introduction of environmental and development policies such as "return grazing land to grassland" (tuimu huancao), "ecological migration" (shengtai yimin) and the establishment of protected areas such as the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve in Qinghai Province, China, there is real possibility that Tibetan herders' livelihoods will change drastically, maybe even permanently. This carries with it significant concern for local people's long-term socio-economic well-being. One of the main purposes of Plateau Perspectives work in China has been to trial and demonstrate just how pastoral communities may in fact live sustainably on the land, and how social services may be provided in cost-effective ways. Through the development of a unique partnership with the nature reserve, new forms of "collaborative management" have been introduced to the project area, which may lead to more equitable development as well as a greater ownership of conservation initiatives and empowerment for local communities in the target area. Through the project reviewed in this presentation, local voices have begun to be heard at higher government levels -- and local people are now becoming more genuine partners in the processes affecting their lives.
Marc Foggin has worked in China for around 15 years, focusing his attention on conservation and community development in the heart of the Tibetan plateau. He is founding director of the international non-profit organization, Plateau Perspectives. He resides in Qinghai Province with his wife Marion, a Scottish community paediatrician, and works regularly with colleagues from many different sectors and administrative levels. Dr Foggin also is Associate Professor in the School of Geography and Life Sciences, Qinghai Normal University.