David KEMP

Professor of agriculture systems

About This Project

In 2001, I was invited by Professor Nan Zhibiao from Lanzhou to visit China. I now consider Lanzhou to be a second home, as we work together to rehabilitate north-west China’s vast degraded grasslands, and improve herder-household incomes.

 

Initially we spent a few years learning about how the grassland/livestock system worked. Using simple computer models we analysed the options herders could trial, concentrating on Inner Mongolia and Gansu.

 

We showed that the key was to reorganise the livestock system so that the number of animals was cut in half, to keep the best animals, to feed and house them better, and improve markets so herders got better prices. There are now hundreds of households that have adopted these practices.

 

One of the sheer delights of my work in China has been spending time with herders, and exchanging ideas − sitting down at the end of a day of work, having a beer or some baijiu. Herders are now moving from managing for survival, to managing for production. The herders continue to surprise us with their innovation. They keep trying new animal breeds, improving feed supplies, developing new markets and are forever searching for the next thing that will help improve their household incomes.

 

Many Chinese colleagues, including herders, have now visited Australia to better understand our systems and take back learnings to improve their own. Doing collaborative research and development studies in China has been the most rewarding experience.

 

David Kemp is Professor of Agricultural Systems Charles Sturt University, Orange, New South Wales.

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