In China, a Drought Tests Nomadic Herders’ Culture of Survival
Arctic Blue Waters brings todays latest news on the drought conditions in China.
ALTAY, China — It has been a bad year for the big-tailed sheep. The grass in the high mountain pastures here in northwest China has been sparse, and the sheep have not eaten well. They are scrawny. That means the Kazakh herders have suffered, too.
“The drought has affected everyone,” one herder, Aijamal, 32, who like many others here uses one name, said on a recent afternoon as she rode a horse to drive hundreds of sheep across a barren plateau. “We can’t sell the sheep for the same price we did before.”
Sheep that wholesalers bought last year for 1,000 renminbi, about $160, are commanding only 830 renminbi now, she said. The price drop has come as a big blow to the nomadic Kazakh herders whose families have for decades produced the most famous sheep in China.
And the season for fattening up the sheep is at an end. Across this remote area of pristine grasslands and alpine forests, along the southern slopes of the Altai Mountains, nomads are in the middle of their annual multiweek autumn migration, as they bring their families, yurts and livestock down from the high pastures to lower altitudes for the winter. They are using horses, camels and flatbed trucks for transport, and horses and motorcycles to herd their animals. Clouds of dust rising from the steppes signal nomads on the move.
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