In China, Drought Tests the Survival Abilities of Nomadic Herders

No matter what part of the United States you are from, chances are, at some point in your life, you have probably had to deal with drought. Nowadays, with all of the modern conveniences we have, even the most severe droughts will only marginally affect our day to day lives. In the Northwest part of China, where nomadic herders dominate, a drought can be unimaginably devastating.

That devastation is exactly what is unfolding for Kazakh herders who depend on the water to grow the grass and shrubbery upon which their herds feed. Without the proper amount of rain, the herders will end up going to market with sheep who are worth only a fraction of what they would be with proper nutrition stemming from a healthy amount of rain.

Survival Culture Tested

The Kazakh herders of Northwest China are in a constant state of survival. From day to day, month to month, and year to year, nothing is guaranteed. In addition to raising and herding sheep, these people must also find their own sources of food, water, and create their own shelter. Now, with their sheep in tow, the herders are making the long trek down from the higher elevations to the plains where they will ultimately spend the winter months.

Unfortunately, with their herds yielding smaller profits than in years past, surviving the winter months will be no walk in the park. What little money they can derive from the sale of their herds will go to supplies, food, and protection from the inevitably harsh winter that is to come.

This year’s drought has not only affected the nomadic herders of the region, but most every person that calls the wide expanses of Northwest China home. Due to the drought, official reports are claiming that nearly 10,000 animals have died and 3,800 kilometers of crops have been ruined. In a place where even the best of years are not easy, a drought as severe as this is sure to make the winter months a struggle for survival.

Still, the people of Northwest China have been living this way for thousands of years and will continue to do so despite the horrid conditions. This story, though sad, is a true testament to the human’s ability to survive. As the winter months descend upon the Chinese plains, these nomadic herders will gear up for what will be a long 4 or 5 months. What’s more, when the mountain snow begins to melt, the whole process of raising, herding, and ultimately selling sheep will repeat itself once more, this time, hopefully with better results.