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Inner Mongolian herders go digital

GANZHAOROG clicked the mouse, and his cattle appeared on the screen.

“Look, they are quietly grazing. I can even see their facial expressions,” says the 42-year-old herdsman from Huugjilt Village, Sunite Left Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Ganzhaorog raises over 1,000 sheep, 100 cattle, 100 horses and 10 camels on his 1,340-hectare farm. “In the past, I had to go and see how my herds were doing hourly every day, but now I don’t have to worry that much, and can just sit back and watch them from home,” he says.

In 2014, his farm became one of the first in the village to have a video monitoring system. By last year, four cameras had been installed.

Ganzhaorog says with the local government subsidy, he only paid 30 percent of the total 80,000 yuan (US$11,840) for the system.

“The cameras can monitor up to 4 kilometers, so I am able to see everything on my farm,” he says, adding that with a mobile phone app, he can watch the herds when he is away.

According to Ganzhaorog, the system has not only saved him time physically going to check his herds, but also helped cut labor costs. “In the past, I hired three to four workers to take care of the herds, and now, I do it all myself.”

The monitoring system project is part of the local government’s efforts to improve the lives of the herders, says Chen Xiaogang, deputy head of the banner’s finance bureau.

Last year, Ganzhaorog’s farm was also equipped with an automatic drinking system to ensure adequate water for his herds.

The drinking system has a sensor that keeps the water at a certain level. If the water level gets too low, it will be refilled automatically.

Though far from the city, Ganzhaorog has access to the Internet in his Mongolian yurt. “We installed Wi-Fi in 2015, and I can use WeChat or watch my favorite programs. My life is so convenient now,” he says.

Altancang, 45, a herdsman who lives on the edge of the Kubuqi Desert, near Ordos, also enjoys assistance from a positioning system supported by China’s self-developed Beidou Navigation Satellite System.

His cattle were fitted with GPS collars last year, and Altancang is able to view their locations on his computer or phone. He said he previously travelled 60 to 80 kilometers a day on his motorcycle to keep track of his cattle.

“But now with the GPS collars, herding is much easier. It works in the middle of nowhere, and has an excellent battery life of up to two years,” he says.

The Beidou Navigation Satellite System is China’s largest navigation and positioning system, featuring faster speeds, higher accuracy and wider coverage. The positioning system Ordos was officially put into use in Inner Mongolia in 2016.


 

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