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Oxfam initiated the Integrated Community Development Project in Tiezhangtang community, Weining county of Guizhou province. By promoting a healthy lifestyle and environmentally friendly production through a participatory approach, we have encouraged community self-organisation and sustainable livelihoods development. Photo: LEI Guang Qing/Oxfam

Building sustainable livelihoods provides a way out of poverty. Our work concentrates strategically on western provinces such as Yunnan, Gansu and Guizhou, where our rural livelihood programmes focus on four major areas: increasing incomes, disaster relief and risk reduction, climate change adaptation, as well as community self-organisation and management.

Oxfam advocates a community-driven approach to manage our projects. Rural households can participate in the management of the projects including their design and implementation, monitoring and evaluation, so that the resources can benefit the poorest households and improve their livelihoods more effectively.

Raising yaks in Qinghai Province

Husbandry is what many herdsmen in Yushu, Qinghai Province, depend on for their livelihoods. Since it’s not always easy to make a living by herding cattle, many herdsmen take up other jobs to earn extra income. Tuga, one of the herdsmen, said, ‘We used to dig for cordyceps to make a bit more money. We also received a subsidy from the government, but life was difficult. We moved to Hongqi village in 2015. Before that, we had no livestock.’

Herdsmen like Tuga and his wife Yonchin moved to Hongqi village of Zhaduo town for a better life. The living conditions in the village, which is situated on the Plateau in Qinghai, are far from ideal as winter temperatures can drop as low as -30°C. Villagers in Hongqi have very few livelihood options. However, with its expansive and quality grassland, Hongqi is very suitable for husbandry. For that reason, Oxfam helped set up the Pasture Cooperative in Hongqi and provided 62 yaks to the cooperative – a number that has now grown to 157.

Two families were elected by the villagers to take care of the yaks, one family being Tuga and Yonchin’s. Yonchin said with a smile, ‘We joined the project because we want to develop our livelihoods. We are confident that if we work hard, we can improve our lives by raising yaks. We have 21 calves now. If we sell them, we can earn RMB6,300, but we will not sell them now. We will continue to raise them so that we can generate more income. Each adult yak can produce about 50 catties of yak butter and 40 catties of yogurt in a year. We expect to earn a good income within the next five years.’

We provide families with yaks to improve their livelihoods. When adult yaks give birth to calves, three quarters of them go to the families that take care of them, while a quarter goes to the cooperative to accumulate wealth for the whole village. Through our project, these caretakers are required to provide each of the 45 poorest elderly and widowed families living in Zhaduo town with six catties of yak butter and three catties of yak yogurt every year, which is worth a total of RMB300 to 480.

This arrangement not only effectively helps improve the productivity and livelihoods of the custodian families, it also increases the spirit of mutual-help within the community, laying down a foundation for long-term sustainable development.


Photo: Antonio Leong / Oxfam Volunteer Photographer