Since most questions related to nomads and development relate to the use of land and livestock, a clear distinction must be made here between extensive and intensive grazing management strategies. According to Briske and Heitschmidt (1991), an extensive grazing management strategy primarily aims to improve the spatial and temporal distribution of grazing herbivores, while an intensive grazing management strategy instead turns to the direct incorporation of high energy inputs into the production system. Between these two extremes are semi-extensive grazing management strategies that 'continue to rely on the strategies of extensive grazing management, but [also] incorporate energy inputs into the system' (Sheehy 1993). In the latter case, the main objective is to raise more livestock and to increase off-take rates, an objective facilitated by improved access to grazing lands and the provision of more stored forage in winter and spring (Sheehy 1993). With around 52 percent of China's land area used primarily for pastoral production (Shen 1982), national and provincial governments in China encourage a systematic, rapid transition from traditional extensive grazing management systems to semi-extensive or intensive grazing management systems (Stucki 1986, Clarke 1987, Cincotta et al. 1992, Zhao 1994).
The main problem with more intensive forms of livestock grazing, however, is that the addition of energy inputs usually has as prerequisite some degree of sedentarization, that is, the localization of many activities associated with the care of livestock (Li et al. 1993). This localization of livestock production then usually translates into a more continuous use of the grasslands with less seasonal and annual variation (Sheehy 1993). The impact of the loss of seasonal mobility (i.e., the loss of the 'nomadic' component of traditional extensive grazing systems) is enormous. Based on their work on natural pasture in Mongolia, Tserendash and Erdenebaatar (1993), for example, found that
'intensive grazing of 2-3 periods on the same area in a season may lead to a decline in pasture yield of up to 72 % the following year, with a corresponding change in the primary plant groups. Intensive use of a pasture for continuous grazing over a long period has [even] more far-reaching effects; vegetation coverage decreases annually by 10-15 % and the frequency of [some] species ... decreases to between 10-30 %. ... All these negative changes caused by unsystematic use and repeated grazing over many years strongly suggest the need to develop systems of pasture use based on the centuries-old traditional experience of Mongolian herders as well as on scientific research.' -- Chapter 2 of Marc Foggin's Ph.D. Dissertation (link at top)
"The history of forced collectivization over the last century, and of the ensuing hardships, is well documented for Central Asia (Leeuwen 1994, Kerven et al. 1996) and Mongolia (Mearns 1993, 1995). Although not all the effects of such collectivization were bad (e.g., the marketing of livestock products has improved; Potkanski 1993), the disruption of linkages between labor, management, and benefits generally has resulted in a decline in the incentive for traditional cooperation among pastoral households and communities (Livingstone 1986, Mearns 1995). Forced collectivization also has been associated with conflict and massive starvation of livestock and people, particularly in Soviet Central Asia (Bacon 1966, Conolly 1967, Olcott 1987, Loomis 1988) and in the Tibetan plateau region of China (Becker 1996)." -- Chapter 2 of Marc Foggin's Ph.D. Dissertation (link at top)