Toughts, news and small talk mainly concerning China from a berlin perspective

5/11/2005

Desertification and the cashmere goats

a cashmere goat nibbled of by its fellow herd members, photo by Lu Tongjing

Last week I heared a speech about desertification in China at the Heinrich Böll Foundation (foundation of Germany's green party). It was given by Lu Tongjing, a photographer and grassroots environmental activist. In recent years he traveled northwest China and his pictures give testimony about the desertification that takes place there. There are several causes, of which one is the breeding of cashmere goats. They seem to have an insatiable appetite and even start eating their neighbor's fur when there is no grass left (see picture above). From the website of the China Environment and Sustainable Development Reference and Research Centre (CESDRRC)

The root of this unfortunate situation stems back to 1982, when Japanese investors initiated a cashmere project in the Alashan region. According to the Environmental Bureau of Inner Mongolia, Alashan itself has traditionally not been an area of goat

a cashmere jumper!breeding, and it has been estimated that, in order to allow for sustainable animal husbandry, no more than 200,000 animals should be kept in the region, while at present, there are some 1.6 million (80% of which are goats). In 2001, there were some 2600 cashmere processing plants in China, paying goat owners up to 300 RMB (36 USD) per kg of cashmere wool. A cashmere jumper of high quality can fetch up to 1000 US Dollar a piece on the world market. As a result, the sensitive ecosystem of these arid regions is destroyed by keeping too many goats.

So next time think twice when you are about to buy a new cashmere jumper!

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