Since decollectivization, Chinese government policies have promoted household enclosures as the best solution to maximize pastoral productivity and control desert expansion in grassland areas. Recent fieldwork from Inner Mongolia contradicts this optimism. Data and participant-observation reveal that enclosures, as implemented through village level social context, actually compound grazing problems for most residents and the wider ecosystem. Expanding household enclosures function to intensify hyper-critical stocking ratios on highly vulnerable rangeland, exacerbating wind and soil erosion processes across vast territories only to protect small isolated fields dedicated to poorly financed fodder cultivation. This case study indicates that privatization of land in modernizing pastoral societies can be less meaningful for good resource management than other factors, such as secure tenure, equitable access to community resources, and meaningful institutional supports in the form of credit, production services, and legal protection.

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