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Importance of village education



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    This publication is an output from a Scoping Study funded by the Livestock Production Programme of the United Kingdom Department for International Development for the benefit of developing countries. The views expressed are not necessarily those of DFID. This study has been carried out jointly by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad (India) and the League for Pastoral Peoples, Germany. Professor Sharma wishes to acknowledge the generous assistance provided by various individuals and institutions in preparing this document. Ms Alka Sabharwal, Anthropologist, contributed a background paper on Himalayan Pastoralism, for which he is indebted to her. Special thanks to Professor Jahar Saha, Director, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad for his encouragement and unstinting moral support Ilse Köhler-Rollefson would like to thank Mr. Hanwant Singh Rathore and the staff of Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan, Sadri (Rajasthan) for collecting information in the field and providing updates of addresses of pastoral organisations.

    Executive Summary

    Pastoralism makes a significant contribution to the economy of developing countries, both in terms of providing employment and income opportunities and in supplying nutrition to the rural poor, however as an economic system it is constantly threatened by inappropriate Government policies. Indian pastoralism is under-researched and poorly documented. It differs in structure and social organisation from other parts of the world. Only a small proportion of pastoral groups have been described in some detail – these include some of the larger communities in Western India, such as the Rebari/Raika and Bharwad, as well as some of the Himalayan region like Gaddis, Gujjars and Kinnauras. Population figures are scanty or non-existent, and some groups in the Deccan Plateau may never have been reported.

    Analysis of the available information on the pastoralists in the Western drylands and in the mountains reveals remarkable similarities in regards to the problems faced by them, despite the contrasting ecological zones that they represent. There are no official pastoral development policies; in fact both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Environment and Forest are remarkable for their stance against pastoralists. The livestock policies of the former have focused on cross- breeding of indigenous breeds with exotic ones while ignoring conservation and development of the much better adapted and often rather productive indigenous breeds kept by pastoralists; animal health provision services have been geared towards the needs of affluent landed livestock owners; the considerable indigenous knowledge of pastoralists has not received any recognition and they are perceived as backward. The Ministry of Environment and Forest is openly against pastoralists, attempting to exclude them from their traditional grazing areas. While there are a small number of NGOs and pastoral organizations, which have not yet been able to combine their voices and raise the subject of pastoralism at a national level. Pastoralists have shown themselves very resilient, they have intact social structures and mechanisms for mutual sharing of resources, and their livestock also represents an encashable asset. Although odds seem stacked against them, there is some hope that with increasing international emphasis on the conservation of biodiversity, pastoralists might be able to benefit from recognition for their role in conserving livestock genetic diversity, valuable indigenous breeds and indigenous knowledge about coping mechanisms for environmental stresses like droughts and floods. The future of pastoralism in India will depend heavily on political decisions made by the State and Central Government. However, working with pastoralists, based on a thorough understanding of their traditional production systems, indigenous knowledge, traditional strategies and practices, could empower the pastoralists and maintain their capacity to produce food on marginal lands.


    The worldwide literature on pastoralism is extremely uneven and determined by politics and security issues as much as by the need for empirical data. According to Blench (2000), Indian pastoralism is the worst documented by far, with confused descriptions of pastoral systems and confused terminology for pastoral ethnic groups. Screening of the anthropological literature, as well as of development reports, indeed confirms that pastoralists represent a subsector of Indian society that has received much less attention in comparison with other social groups, from both the research and the development angle. This can be linked to differences between the spatial and social organization of pastoralism in India and other countries, as well as to prevailing research and development paradigms. In Africa and the Middle East, pastoralists are usually tribally organized and associated with particular territories inhabited exclusively by them. By contrast, in India, pastoralists are integrated into the caste system, representing endogamous social groups with a professional specialization in animal husbandry. There are certain regions – such as the most arid parts of the Thar Desert on the Indo-Pakistan border and the sub-alpine and alpine zones above 3200 metres in the Himalayas – which can only be utilized seasonally by means of pastoral strategies. But in most parts of India, pastoral and agrarian land use strategies are spatially integrated and interdependent activities pursued within the same landscape. Besides breeding their own livestock, pastoralists also take care of the animals of other communities, fulfilling the role of village cowherd.

    Because, in India, the “village” has always been the focal unit for investigations by anthropologists as well as for development interventions, pastoralists, due to their transient and dispersed existence, somehow have fallen through the gaps and escaped the attention of researchers and development agencies. The term “pastoralism” is rarely used and remains so far an almost unknown category used neither by anthropologists nor animal husbandry people. The first usually talk in terms of “nomads”, a category, which in India contains a large number of non-pastoral groups. For animal husbandry professionals, animal keeping outside “western models” (i.e. either for dairy purposes or production of broilers/eggs) has barely entered their consciousness and for many the term “pastoralist” is new.

    Geographically, nomadic pastoralism is most prevalent in the drylands of Western India (Thar Desert) and on the Deccan Plateau, as well as in the mountainous regions of North India (Himalayas). Types of livestock kept in mobile pastoral systems include buffaloes, sheep, goats, camels, cattle, donkeys, yaks, and even ducks are raised under transhumant conditions. But there are also more sedentary forms of pastoralism, represented for instance by the buffalo breeding Toda in the ghat region of Southern India.

    The pastoralists of the Himalayas and the Thar Desert have received much more attention than others and information about them forms the backbone of this report. However, this should not be interpreted as meaning that others are non-existent or not important, but simply as reflecting a lack of information. Pastoralism in the Indian Himalayas

    Pastoralism in the Himalayas is based on transhumant practices and involves cyclical movements from lowlands to highlands to take advantage of seasonally available pastures at different elevation in the Himalayas (Bhasin 1988). During the summer, when the snow melts in the higher alpine regions, Himalayan pastoralists move up to these areas to graze their animals. After the monsoon they move down to occupy the low altitude pasture for the winter months. Movement of people and their livestock proceeds between previously earmarked sites, which become more or less regular seasonal encampments or bases.

    Migratory pastoralism is common throughout the Himalayas and, from west to east, some of the herding communities in the region include the goat and sheep herding Bakrawals of Jammu and Kashmir, the buffalo herding Gujjars in Kashmir, parts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the goat and sheep herding Gaddis, Kanets, Kaulis and Kinnauras in Himachal Pradesh, the sheep herding Bhotias of Uttar Pradesh, yak herding Sherpas of Khumbu, Nepal and less well-known communities in the mountains of Bhutan, Sikkim
    and Arunachal Pradesh. All of these herders continue a long-standing tradition of migrating up to the alpine pastures of the high Himalayas for the summer and descending to the low-lying Himalayan foothills in the winter. Some pastoralists in the Himalayas are agro-pastoralists and besides rearing animals they also cultivate land, although the major portion of their household income is drawn from pastoral activities. In addition, they also engage in a multitude of other economic activities like handicrafts, trade and transport. For example, the Gaddis, in Himachal Pradesh are known for their beautiful handicrafts; the embroidered caps made by Gujjars are also famous. The Bhotias are the most prominent trading community on the Indo- Tibet border and similarly Changpas in Ladakh are involved in cross border trade with Tibet.

    The “Old World Arid Zone Belt” that stretches across Northern Africa and Northern Asia and has given rise to many pastoral cultures, reaches its most eastern point in Northern India. Its limit is marked by the Aravalli mountain chain that runs in a northeast- southwest direction roughly from Delhi to Ahmedabad. The area that is bordered by the Aravalli hills in the west and the Indo-Pakistan border in the east is known as the Thar Desert; receiving average annual rainfall ranging from 100-600 mm, it is subject to frequent droughts, and therefore, pastoralism traditionally represented the predominant land use strategy.

    In this region pastoralism can be a market-oriented strategy by landless people specialized in the production of animals and animal products for sale; but it can also be a subsistence and drought adaptation strategy by people who own land. The pastoral castes of Western India are presumed to have immigrated into the area from Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Pakistan. In some instances this has happened recently and is well documented, in others the oral traditions are equivocal and open to interpretation. In general there are many similarities in dress and customs between the pastoralists of Western India and their counterparts to the west. Although there are exceptions, most pastoralists are Hindus integrated into the village caste mosaic, for which animal husbandry represents a hereditary profession. The majority of them are connected with particular livestock species by their myth of origin, tracing their descent to an ancestor who was created by God for the purpose of taking care of these animals. For instance, the Raika/Rebari are linked to the camel, the Charan in Gujarat are associated with cattle, and the Bharvad keep mostly small stock. Because of this heritage, these pastoralists are endowed with a special sense of responsibility for the welfare of their livestock. Taboos against the selling of livestock for slaughter were prevalent earlier and even now persist among some groups. Although there are castes with a strong pastoral identity, the situation is to some extent fluid and the transition between herding and cultivation is possible. Some castes that originally were pastoralists have switched to crop farming, for instance the Ahir who are now the main farming caste around Junagadh in Saurashtra region of Gujarat. On the other hand, some members of castes who own land and are considered as cultivators have recently taken up (often nomadic or semi-nomadic) pastoralism because of good economic returns. These are known as “non-traditional” pastoralists and, in Rajasthan, include Rajputs and Meghwals.

    In the Indian context, pastoralists can be defined as “members of caste or ethnic groups with a strong traditional association with livestock-keeping, where a substantial proportion of the group derive over 50% of household consumption from livestock products or their sale, and where over 90% of animal consumption is from natural pasture or browse, and where households are responsible for the full cycle of livestock breeding.” It could also be added, at least for Hindu groups, that animal breeding traditionally represented a dharma or inherited duty. The fact that they breed animals separates them from other groups which make their living by combining trade in animals with other itinerant professions, such as blacksmithing (Gadulia Lohars), conducting bull oracles (Nandiwallas of Maharashtra) or selling salt (Bhats). Breeding activities also present a useful criterion for separating pastoralists from urban and peri-urban dairy producers, who, although they often belong to communities with pastoral identities, do not breed, but keep milk animals only as long as they are lactating. They continuously purchase replacement stock from rural areas.

    Mobility seems to be an unreliable defining criterion for pastoralism in the Indian context. Village based herding is common in semi-arid western India; even large herds of camels – associated with extremely mobile husbandry systems in other parts of the world – are sometimes managed by completely sedentary households – by just allowing them to roam freely during the dry season (or for nine months of the year).

    Although according to a semi-popular magazine, “more than 200 tribes1, comprising 6 per cent of the country’s population, are engaged in pastoralism” (Khurana, 1999), there appear to be no reliable statistics available on the number of “active pastoralists”. Since Independence, population censuses no longer collect data based on caste adherence; besides, not all members of pastoral castes are actually engaged in livestock keeping. Only a small proportion of young people from pastoral backgrounds have the opportunity or interest to become livestock herders and are engaged mainly in unskilled labour in cities.

    Indian pastoralists can be divided into groups that practice horizontal movement patterns in the dryland regions and vertical movement patterns in the mountainous areas. But beyond that, they resist attempts for convenient classification and systematisation. In the following section we discuss the major pastoralists groups in India (see Tables 1 and 2 for summary). Himalayan Region

    The Gujjars derive their name from the Sanskrit term Gurjara. Historically they were once a dominant people in western India and gave the territory occupied by them the name Gujarat. However, for unknown reasons, the Gujjars migrated from western India and spread out all over the north-western part of Indian sub-continent and to some extent central India. Cunningham (1871) describes their distribution to be in great numbers in every part of north-west India, and from the Peninsular Gujarat. The most reliable census data on Gujjars is over sixty years old. In 1931 the Census of India reported 2,038,692 Gujjars inhabiting eight provinces and Indian states; Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, undivided Punjab (now consisting of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh), the North West Provinces (now Pakistan), and other areas in and along the Himalayas.

    There is a great controversy regarding the origin of the Gujjars. According to one view, they were pastoral nomads of Central Asia that migrated into India during the 5th or 6th century AD. According to another opinion, they are of Indian origin and were inhabitants of the region extending around Mount Abu in western Rajasthan, Malwa and Gujarat. They are said to have migrated around the 16th century AD in a north-west direction into Punjab Kandi, in primary and secondary waves. The primary wave of migrants

    Although it is certain that in the Garhwal Himalayas the Gujjars have migrated from the Jammu region through Himachal Pradesh, it is difficult to establish at what point of time they entered this territory. Atkinson (1888) and his contemporaries do not make any mention of the Gujjars while describing the people of the Garhwal Himalayas in the gazetteer of the Himalayan districts of the northwestern province of India. Walton (1910) also is silent about them in the gazetteer of Garhwal. However, it is generally believed that the Gujjars migrated to Garhwal some 100 to 150 years ago and till very recently were fully pastoralists, following transhumance between two distinct eco-zones without much diversification of subsistence strategy. Ethnic Identities:

    At present there are both Hindu and Muslim Gujjars in northern India but the Hindu Gujjars are mostly in the plains of Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, while the Muslim Gujjars inhabit the Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and the Garhwal and Kummaon divisions of Uttar Pradesh (now the new state of Uttranchal). There is yet another remarkable difference between the Hindu and Muslim Gujjar populations; the former are mostly settled agriculturists while the latter are agro-pastoralists in some areas and completely pastoralist in others. However, the vast majority of Gujjars today are Muslim and are semi-nomadic, herding buffalo, sheep and goats. They also rear some bullocks, horses and ponies as pack animals. Most of the Gujjars do not own any land and do not practice agriculture, and are therefore dependent upon access to state forests where they live for most of the year.

    The primary functional unit in the Gujjar social system is the dera (household or homestead). It is synonymous with the family and is the most dominant institution in the pastoral Gujjar society. The major socio-economic, political, religious and reproduction activities are centered around a dera (Negi, 1998). The Gujjars are polygynous as Islam allows more than one wife (up to four) at one time but actual cases of polygamy are not frequent. The Gujjars are divided into various gotras (clans), which are the same as among the Hindu Gujjars. Some of the clan names of the Gujjars inhabiting the lower Himalayas are Kasana, Chechi, Chauhan, Theckari, Dhinda, Pathan, Poshwal(d), Lodha and Kaalas.

    The pastoral Gujjars of northern India practice transhumance and migrate with their households and livestock between summer and winter pastures. The basis of their economic activities is keeping buffalo herds and they are specialised producers of dairy products that are sold in local towns. With the approach of summer months, when grass and other fodder as well as water becomes scarce in the lowers regions, the Gujjars take their herds to high-altitude pastures of Himachal Pradesh and Uttranchal where grass is regenerated after snow. Winters are spent in the regions of Jammu, Punjab, lower districts of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), and to the areas adjoining Rajaji National Park in U.P. Migration proceeds between predetermined sites along traditionally set routes and according to a more or less fixed timetable. The outward and inward journeys take about 15 to 20 days each. The buffaloes start migrating on their own when the weather gets hot in the month of March or April or when it becomes cold in the month of September (close to the snow line). At times, if Gujjars are not ready to move, they have to physically stop the herds. If they are not disturbed they can reach their destinations even on their own. The buffaloes forage mainly on leaf fodder during the winter months and on the rich grass of the Himalayan pastureland during the summers. In winter, gujjars lop off branches from selected fodder trees making sure that enough nodal branches and leaves are left so that the tree may regenerate during the remaining period of the year. Also, they lop the branches just before the time of leaf fall of the particular species and in this way they ensure that the tree gets the full benefit of its foliage for growth. Buffalo manure provides a very rich fertiliser for the forests. Earlier the gujjar deras would migrate with all its belongings and livestock to the high altitude bugyals. But recently a change has set in due to forest policies and opposition from the local populations. Fewer and fewer deras migrate to high altitudes. At the same time, the deras do not move as a whole: some members with some buffaloes remain behind in the winter habitat. This has resulted in partial sedentarization with more and more transhumance.

    The Gaddis, also known as Pahari Bahrmauri, live in northern India in the states of Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Traditions say that Gaddis ancestors originally came from the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, and fled from Muslim invaders in the plains. They later fled to the Himalayan mountains for refuge. As per latest estimates (2000), the Gaddi population is about 126,300. Their population in 1981 was about 76,860, which increased to about 105,100 in 1990 and 115,700 in 1995. The majority of the Gaddis (99.9%) are Hindus. Although shepherding is a key feature of the economic landscape of four districts of Himachal Pradesh – Kangra, Kullu, Kinnaur and Chamba – the main concentration is in the Kangra and Dharamshala regions of Kangra district.

    The Rebari/Raika are the major and most numerous pastoral groups in Western India. They are most densely distributed in Rajasthan and Gujarat, but also occur in Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh and may be in other states. The term “Raika” is applied to the Rebari of the Marwar area of Rajasthan. It carries the special connotation of camel breeder with it. Rebari is the more encompassing term, and includes groups in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Haryana and other states. The larger Rebari community is composed of several endogamous groups, which know very little about each other and do not form any coalitions.

    The Rebaris of Rajasthan are divided into two groups, the Maru and Godwar. The Maru Raikas are concentrated around Jodhpur and in Pali district. The Godwar Raika, which were termed Pitalia or Chalkia in the British
    Gazetteers, inhabit the southern part of Pali district, Jalore and Sirohi districts. Sources from the colonial period describe the Maru Raika as camel breeders and the Godwar Raika as sheep raisers, but this does not apply any longer, since both groups herd sheep as well as camels. Both are endogamous groups that have separate decision making bodies and, although they would seem to have the same interests, they generally do not form political liaisons.

    The Raika have retained their reputation as “camel people” until today. Yet, only a minority engages in camel breeding. The majority of them raise sheep or goats, or, in some areas, cattle, and even buffalo. If not endowed with livestock on their own, Raika often occupy professions where they interact with animals, for instance as village cowherds (in earlier times the Raika seem to have had hereditary rights to these positions), as care takers in gaushalas (cow-sanctuaries), or as labour in the National Research Centre on Camel, Bikaner.

    Alternatively, they act as sedentary “village shepherds” who keep sheep and goats on the outskirts of villages and are paid in grain and cash by farmers for their manure (Tambs-Lyche, 1997). They either trade cartloads of small ruminant manure for the same volume of straw or another low quality crop residue, or leave their herds on fields overnight and get paid for this in cash or kind (grain, straw). Although
    traditionally regarded as lower in the caste hierarchy than the Rabari, they appear to be more upwardly mobile.

    The Bharvads are divided into the Motabhai (who raise mainly sheep and goat and live in northwestern Saurashtra) and the Nanabhai (who keep cows and buffalo in eastern and southeastern Saurashtra, Bhavnagar, Surat). The two groups do not intermarry but merge with the Rabari in eastern Gujarat, near Rajpipla (WestphalHellbusch, 1975). Charan

    The Charan are traditional cattle breeders, considered to be the original guardians of Nandi, the sacred bull of Shiva, but also act as genealogists and bards. They are concentrated in Kutch, Saurashtra, and North Gujarat and in Rajasthan. Mers

    The Mers from Saurashtra and Kutch are sometimes counted as pastoralists since they bred camels and horses for the ruling Jethwa Rajputs.

    Muslim Groups

    In Kutch, there are about 20 nomadic or semi-nomadic Muslim groups who migrated to Gujarat from Sindh, Balochistan and other areas to the west. Most of them are very small and consist only of a few hundred people, but still remain endogamous. One of the larger ones is the Jats/Jaths who were specialized camel breeders when living in Sindh. Their largest subgroup is the Danetha who now rear buffaloes, cows, camels, but also sheep and goats. They do not sell milk, only ghee or mawa. Another subgroup is the Fakhirani Jath who lives near the Lakhpat coastal area in portable reed huts.

    In Rajasthan, the Sindhi Muslims, residing mostly in Jaisalmer and Jodhpur districts, are often classified as pastoralists, although they were traditionally involved in long- distance caravan trade, rather than the breeding of livestock. Some of them breed camels or engage in sheep-migration, some sub-groups are specialized cattle breeders and have developed some of the most famous breeds, i.e. the Rathi cattle. Ahir/Gujjar

    The Ahir/Gujjar group is described as the largest pastoral community in India by Tambs-Lyche (1997). They were very early immigrants to India who herded cows, but most of them were already settled in the 1920s. Gairi (Gayri)

    The Gairi are a caste in the Mewar (southern Rajasthan) area said to be professionally involved in livestock breeding, especially sheep) (e.g. Wood et al., 2000), but details are not available.

    This term is used to refer to castes that were not traditionally involved in pastoralism, but have taken up sheep breeding because of its economic promise. This group encompasses the Rajputs who are the ruling, land owning caste of Rajasthan. They are basically agriculturists (although they represent the traditional warrior caste), but Rajputs from the resource poor parts of Rajasthan (i.e. Jaisalmer) took up long- distance sheep pastoralism in the 1980s because it provided good income opportunities (Kavoori, 1999). Jats (cultivators), Meghwals (an untouchable caste), and maybe others, can also belong to this category. According to Kavoori (1999:189): “Rajasthani pastoralists are simply members of a more generally distributed society who move in and out of pastoralism as circumstance and opportunity indicate… In years of plenty the alternative may lie dormant, being confined to a few specialized castes; in years of want it spreads in the manner of a ‘capillary action’ through broader society and economy, becoming the dominant and determining element in the reproduction of livelihood.”

    There are basically no official statistics informing about the size of pastoral populations and their trends during the last 60 years. The following theoretical possibilities exist for calculating these on a case-by-case basis and could be a researchable issue.

    Combination of pre-Independence census data with population growth rates: Up to Independence, population censuses were undertaken on caste basis. By superimposing these with population growth rates, an estimate of current population sizes could be arrived at. The disadvantage of this method is that the resulting figures would indicate number of people of a certain social and caste background, rather than of people active in livestock keeping. It does not provide a means of determining how many specialized pastoralists still live in their original habitats (and depend on livestock) and how large a proportion of them have out migrated to the cities in search for menial jobs.

    In India, farmers keep more livestock in integrated systems than under pastoral conditions. But certain types of livestock – notably sheep, camels, yaks – are kept almost exclusively in pastoral systems and their relative trends would seem to be a reasonable indicator of pastoral trends. For the drawbacks of this method, see the section on trends in pastoral development below.

    Numbers on livestock populations are readily available for each Indian state, since censuses are undertaken in regular five-year intervals. Knowing how these data are collected, their accuracy probably leaves much to be desired; nevertheless they do give evidence of long-term trends. Unfortunately there is a large time gap between their compilation at the field level and their analysis/publication. To our knowledge, the results of the census that was undertaken in 1997 have not yet been published, so that the information for 1992 is the latest available. Since then there have been substantial changes, based on hearsay and our own interactions with pastoralists during that period.

    Classification of Major Types of Indian Pastoralists

    Pastoralism can be categorised in a number of ways. The most important of these are by degree of movement, species, management strategy, geography and ecology. The most common categorization is by degree of movement, from highly nomadic through transhumant to agro-pastoral (Blench, 2000). Major types of pastoralists in the Himalayan and Western regions of the country are discussed below: Himalayan Region

    The pastoral groups can be classified into the following categories on the basis of their migration types: Nomadic Herders
    Van Gujjars of Uttranchal and Himachal Pradesh and Changpas in Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir migrate from one pasture to another with their whole families. They do not cultivate land and their entire livelihood revolves around pastoral activities. They mostly depend on their neighbouring agricultural communities for cultivable goods for which they perform extensive economic exchange with them. Semi-Nomadic Pastoralists

    Gaddis and Bhotias of North-western Himalayas seasonally migrate to higher pastures with their animals. These nomadic groups own cultivable land and during half of the year are involved in agricultural activities. Bhuttias living in the Lachen and Lachung valleys of Sikkim and Monpas of Arunachal Pradesh are also included in this category.

    Long-distance or Transhumant Herders

    Village pastoralists practice long-distance herding of livestock and are considered to be transhumant herders. Transhumance is a grazing strategy “… in which the livestock is generally accompanied by hired men but also by owners and their relatives, but rarely by a whole family, on a long migration or transit between two seasonal ranges” (Rinschede, 1987).

    Pastoral adaptations in the Western region of India can be classified into the following main types: Urban Pastoralism:
    Urban pastoralism refers to the keeping of buffaloes and cattle in and at the periphery of large cities (Ahmedabad, Baroda, and Jodhpur) for milk production with marketpurchased fodder. Certain pastoral castes, especially the Bharwads of Gujarat, engage in this strategy. Often these groups do not raise their own replacement females, but continuously buy pregnant stock from rural areas that they keep only as long as lactation lasts. Salzman (1988) describes this strategy.

    Photo: Gaddis Migrating with their animals to Plains

    Village-based pastoralism (sedentary to semi-sedentary, depending on rainfalls) is the type of pastoralism usually practiced by owners of small to medium sized sheep herds, by goat owners and by also by some camel pastoralists, for instance in Pali District of Rajasthan. Herds usually return to the village for the night, although they may stay away for several days or weeks, if more distant pastures are to be utilized or fields that are farther away are to be fertilized. In years of severe drought, many pastoralists also will be forced to go on long-distance migration.

    Long-distance Group Migration:

    Long-distance migration (for 9 months of the year) is undertaken mostly by owners of large sheep herds, but also by some owners of large camel herds. About 10-12 families form a large group that elects one or more leaders (Patel, Numberdar) responsible for negotiating with land owners for night halts and access to fallow land, also to interact with the police, foresters and traders. These migratory groups are called dangs; typically, they consist of 4,000-5,000 sheep, 20-30 baggage camels and 50-100 able-bodied family members of all ages. In Rajasthan, long-distance migration leads to Madhya Pradesh, to Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh or to the Punjab. The herding groups move along well-established routes and often have developed contacts with landowners and traders en-route. Contacts with the home village are maintained – often family members take turns in joining the dang. Length and amplitude of the migration vary according to climatic conditions. In years with good rainfall, the herders can afford to stay longer in their home villages. When rains do not come, then return to the villages is delayed because no grazing would be available there.

    Major Problems Experienced by Pastoralists

    The problems that pastoralists face are as much social and political as economic and resource-based. We have discussed the major problems faced by pastoralists in Himalayan and Western region separately, although there are many similarities, especially in the underlying issues of government policy. There is probably no need in this context for a further stratification of pastoralists into different groups, because many problems appear to be the common for most of them.

    Himalayan Region

    While the government has included the Himalayan pastoral groups, with the exception of the Uttranchal Gujjars, in a reserved category for government jobs and other facilities, Himalayan pastoralists are finding it difficult in many ways to follow their traditional livelihoods. The immediate threats they experience will be discussed below, but they derive in turn from underlying problems: government attitudes to pastoralism, non-recognition of pastoral land rights, and population growth.

    Government Attitudes to Pastoralism

    In social evolutionary thinking, the nomadic lifestyle has traditionally been treated as less civilized, less productive and more degrading than a settled lifestyle (Saberwal, 1999). This cultural bias is clearly manifested in many of the colonial/historical documents, and seems to have many policy level implications for the Himalayan pastoralists. Pastoralists continue to be treated as a problem for administrators in terms of collecting taxes or controlling the population.

    Due to the problem of their cultural stereotyping, small population and migratory lifestyle, the Himalayan pastoralists are ignored in the various policy-level decisions. Non-participation and ignorance of their due rights and status in the Indian State have seriously marginalized these communities. Their political marginalization is also visible across all the Himalayan states where most of the pastoral groups are not vocal about their concerns.

    Incorrect and alarmist perceptions of the environmental threats caused by Himalayan pastoralism have also had negative effects on policy. The conservation policies of the country are supposed to have as one of their bases the famous theory of Himalayan degradation which assumes a threat of disastrous floods for the population of the Indo-Gangetic plain, as a result of overgrazing of the Himalayan slopes and massive soil erosion (Ives and Messerli, 1989). Today Himalayan pastoralism is perceived by decision-makers and politicians as an environmental threat to the Himalayas and the local pastoral groups are incessantly blamed for overgrazing and livestock increase. There is little interest in a detailed objective analysis of the condition of the environment. At a local level, these attitudes are held especially by Forestry Department officials.

    One manifestation of this perception is that pastoralists are being displaced from protected areas. There are 13 National Parks and 59 Wild Life Sanctuaries in the Indian Himalayas, covering approximately 10 per cent of the total Himalayan zone (State of the Environment Report, Himachal Pradesh). According to the National Park policy, all the stakeholders dependent on the Park resources are displaced. As an effect there is a large pastoral population in the Himalayas which is affected by the formation of parks where their rights to access pastures have been denied for the purposes of biodiversity conservation. For example, due to recent notification of the Great Himalayan National Park in Himachal Pradesh all the pastoralists who used to occupy the vast alpine pastures of the Park for the summer months have been deprived of access to approximately 300 sq. km of pastures without having being allotted grazing rights in any alternative regions. There are similar examples in other Himalayan states where the availability of pasture resources is reducing with the increase of protected areas.

    The pastoral development programmes that are planned and implemented by the state carry a bias against pastoralists. Various development schemes for the pastoral population carry an agricultural preference and pastoralism is considered to be an activity supplementary to agriculture. Programmes of livestock development have more beneficiaries from agricultural communities than pastorals. The government bias is also evident in various other development programmes such as those for education, health, and income generation where pastoralists are ignored and constantly blamed for a primitive nomadic lifestyle – a hurdle in implementing the development programmes which are planned around the settled or landed communities. Most of the research conducted on Himalayan pastoralism is inclined more towards ecological concerns rather than taking a holistic view and has given rise to a biased understanding. Many studies have concluded that the present knowledge of environmental degradation vis-à-vis livestock grazing by migratory Himalayan pastoralists is not sufficient and there is a need to rationalize and reinforce the existing knowledge. Studies elsewhere, from Poland to Tanzania to Mongolia, have shown that pastoralism can co-exist with, and contribute positively to, biodiversity conservation. However, no such study of the impacts of grazing on biodiversity conservation has been conducted in the Indian

    The local pastoral groups regard themselves as owners of the pasture resources in Himalayas and there is an extensive customary usage of these resources by the local pastoralists (Chakravarty-Kaul M, 1998). They follow traditional rules and regulations in distributing and managing their resources amongst themselves, like the Pipon system in the Sikkim Himalayas, which is still prevalent to facilitate the community resource management practices. Similarly each pastoralist community has evolved traditional resource management practices to use its commonly owned resources. This historical evidence is enough to support customary claims of Himalayan pastoralists to gain access to their common inheritance.

    However, the customary usage of the forest resources or common lands is not documented in government records or officially recognised, thus Himalayan pastoralists are simply not understood as the stakeholders in their own land resources. This is very evident during the time of their displacement as a result of government projects such as Hydel power, social welfare programmes or National Parks where the pastoralist are completely ignored in the times of rehabilitation. There are also instances where the winter pastures of Gaddi pastorals in Himachal Pradesh were allotted to landless people under a social welfare programme and the resource use and the right to access these resources of Gaddi pastorals were absolutely ignored.

    The more recent example is the Kandi Hydel Project in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh where the settled cultivators with private rights over the land have received compensation from the state and Gaddis have not been given any relief. There are problems when pastoral groups are withdrawn from the National Parks and are not compensated with alternative
    pasturelands as compared to the private landowners and the agriculturists. There are also fundamental institutional changes observed in the pastoral nomadic communities due to this process of land reforms and organizational restructuring.

    Population Growth and Land Fragmentation

    As a result of growing human population in the Himalayan region, land resources per household are decreasing, with sub-division and fragmentation of agricultural land. The data available on trends in population growth and per capita cultivated land in selected areas of Himalayan region indicate that the magnitude of reduction in per capita cultivated land is as high as 46.7 per cent within a decade in the case of Central Himalayas (Table 3b). Similarly the reduction in per capita land holding in the Western Indian Himalayas is also significant. This trend accelerated throughout the 1990s.

    Similarly, the ever-growing agricultural activities, tourism, army movements and exercises in these regions and terrorist activities in the area bordering Jammu and Kashmir also affect the summer pastures in Himalayas. Since many alpine pastures of the Himalayan region are located along the International borders, the army settlements have taken over many summer pastures in the Himalayas. There are examples like Changthang pastures of Ladakh, Lachung valley pastures in Sikkim, the Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh etc. The increasing agricultural activities in the high altitude regions of the Himalayas are also a threatening trend for Himalayan pastoralism.

    The migratory graziers in Himalayas travel long distances from low to high altitudes. On their way to summer or winter grazing lands, they halt at common lands of various villages, which is important for animal forage and their social relations with the agricultural communities. As said earlier, the Himalayan states have gone through dramatic development in the last few decades and besides infrastructure development these states have seen tremendous tourism development, extensive road building, hydro power plants, hotels etc. across the length and breadth of the Himalayas. As a result, pastoralists frequently have had to alter their migratory routes and face problems of livestock being killed on roads, thefts and a constant pressure to move. There are instances where animals die of eating noxious weeds growing close to the roads or on degraded land.


    Sedentarization of pastoralists is now widespread, both because of active government policies and because of lack of support for migratory pastoralism. The Himalayan states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have tried many times to settle their local nomadic communities, although this is against the very logic of migratory pastoralism in Himalayas. The non-supportive government policies play an important role in the decrease of pastoral activities in Himalayas. Further the process of marginalization at cultural and policy level has seriously discouraged the upcoming generation to take over pastoralism as an occupation. The absence of any legal rights over their resources, which have sometimes been appropriated without compensation, has discouraged and marginalized Himalayan pastoralists in all the Himalayan states. Some studies have shown that the local pastoral economy is in a process of change from a mixed agropastoral system toward agricultural or horticultural based economy, the primary factor being the lack of grazing land in the winter due to Forest

    Department closure of winter grazing permits and increased human population. The pastoralists also feel that agriculture/horticulture provides a more secure future for their children as herding would become more and more difficult in the future.

    The driving forces behind this development are agriculturally centred development strategies. In the course of land reforms in Gujarat, the government allotted village common lands to low caste landless residents. In Saurashtra (part of Gujarat), the majority of village CPRs was converted to cropland and permanent pastures were reduced to 20 per cent of the level at Independence. Pastoralists who had previously grazed their animals only on rangelands came to depend on crop residues and faced shortages of feed and fodder (Cincotta and Pangare, 1994). For Rajasthan, the processes behind the shrinking pasture resources and CPRs have been chronicled and analyzed in some detail (Brara 1992, Jodha 2000, Robbins 1998). The driving processes include: a. Enclosure of Forests:

    Large parts of the Aravalli forest range have become off-limits to grazing. This area represented the traditional rainy season grazing grounds for camel breeders in Pali district, but also year round pasture for sheep pastoralists and keepers of other livestock. Especially the Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary is a scene of daily conflict between forest authorities and pastoralists. In Gujarat, establishment of the Gir Lion Sanctuary caused the resettlement of over 845 Maldhari families between 1973 and 1981, and this is still cause for much resentment today.

    The Dhangar Gowli are cattle keepers living in the forests of Northern Karnataka and Southern Maharashtra, with the population in Karnataka numbering about 10,000. Dhangar means wanderer and gowli means milkman or herdsman.

    Life of the Gowlis was happy and prosperous as the mountains and valleys offered them plenty of fodder and water… they enlarged their livestock as much as possible and earned a lot of income by selling milk and its products… they prepared curd and butter to be sold in the markets…They acquired lots of wealth by dairy occupation…But the life of Gowlis became miserable in the last 30 years. The forest restrictions do not allow their cattle free access in the jungle… The Gowlis are considered enemies of the forest because their cattle are said to be destroying the forest plants and the saplings… Present socio-economic conditions of the Dhangar Gowli are below poverty line… As they live in small hamlets in the interior forest nook their development is not possible… They live a subhuman life and not better than the cattle they own…It is fortunate that most of them know herbal medicine and treat themselves and their cattle in times of ill health. … What they need today is land to grow grains and fodder, organised dairy activities with few good yielding milch animals and entertainment of basic needs.

    There is a complete breakdown of village institutions governing use of village commons (gocher) and sacred groves (oran). During the pre- Independence period, use of village grazing areas was strictly regulated, users had to pay a fee, and trespassers were punished. These traditional institutions all but collapsed after governance of the commons was relegated to the village panchayats and then turned into a free-for-all. d.Deterioration of pasture land

    As a consequence of an increase in livestock numbers and a parallel decline in CPRs, the stocking density has risen immensely – more than threefold – since the 1950s. Between 1952-53 and 1977-78 it increased from 39 animal units per hectare of grazing land to about 105. The productivity of the remaining grassland has seriously deteriorated. Certain superior grass genetic resources of exceptional nutritious value are disappearing, such as sevan (Lasiurus sindicus) and dhaman (Cenchrus ciliaris) (Robbins, 1994), not only as components of village CPRs, but also in the form of distinct ecotypes. Famous grazing tracts, such as the sevan grass rangelands in Rajasthan’s Barmer/Jaisalmer/Bikaner districts, and the Banni grazing area in Kutch have disappeared or changed their character. Infiltration of invasive exotic species, particularly Prosopis juliflora and Lantana sp. render huge tracts of former grazing land off limits. The former is unpalatable and the latter is poisonous, which causes thousands of death every year.

    No Access to Veterinary Care and Reasonably Priced Medicines Next to grazing, pastoralists perceive access to animal health care and to reasonably priced and genuine veterinary medicines their second largest constraint. The state government of Rajasthan recognises the importance of animal husbandry – which contributes about 15-19 per cent to its net economy – and operates a network of over 1000 veterinary hospitals where consultation and certain basic medicines are supposed to be provided free of cost. However, these facilities are geared towards the needs of landed and wealthier livestock keepers (for instance in their emphasis on Artificial Insemination and crossbreeding) and are rarely made use of by pastoralists, for several reasons. For one, there are the logistical difficulties of taking animals for treatment to the hospitals. Furthermore veterinarians lack training and orientation for successful interaction with pastoralists whom they regard as backward and illiterate and whose traditional knowledge they do not appreciate.

    Pastoralists often avoid vaccination campaigns (because they have experienced related losses and mortality in the past) and generally rely on their traditional knowledge for preventing and treating sick animals. At the same time, they are well aware that certain infectious diseases with major economic impact can not be controlled merely by means of traditional interventions and are extremely keen to benefit from modern medicines. They prefer to self-administer anthelmintics and trypanocides, but, being unable to read instructions, often utilize them inappropriately, since they do not understand the underlying principles (for instance classifying drugs only on the basis of their colour) or the need to give correct dosages, often giving half doses in order to save money. Availability of genuine drugs is also a problem. There is an enormous volume of counterfeit medicines in the market and in remoter areas medicines are sold at double or triple of their supposed retail price. Dependence on Middlemen for Marketing

    For logistical reasons, pastoralists are largely dependent on middlemen for the marketing of their animals and products. This impinges on their profit margins, often to a considerable extent, although the fact that vyoparis (traders) regularly visit even remote areas to purchase animals certainly facilitates marketing for them. There are particular castes that act as middlemen who often are Muslims. But there are also many instances of middlemen belonging to the same pastoral communities as well. Lack of Linkages with Outside World and Access to Information Because of their dependence on various types of CPRs and the need to undertake migrations in years of droughts, pastoralists are required to “build bridges with many different actors” (Agrawal, 1999), i.e. engage in constant negotiations with land owners, forest officials, middlemen and police. In the current scenario, bargaining power however rests largely with their negotiating partners and the pastoralists tend to loose out. As a consequence they regard themselves as extremely marginalised, almost succumbing to a collective psychology of being different and out of luck. Their almost complete illiteracy and consequent lack of knowledge of global developments may compound this feeling. Many of them are completely unaware that India is a nation state and that they as citizens have certain rights. Dilemma between Education and the Pastoral Livelihood

    With regard to education, pastoralists face a huge dilemma, although families actively involved in animal production less frequently articulate this. Pastoral leaders extol the need for education and going to school, even for girls. However, until now only a few girls have been sent to school. Those youths from pastoral families that have received even the most rudimentary education will seek employment elsewhere and usually no longer regard animal husbandry as a livelihood option. Herding animals is stigmatised as a lonely job and associated with illiteracy. In the Raika community, there are many cases of girls refusing to marry boys they have been engaged to, because they aspire to a career in herding.

    Himalayan Areas

    In the Himalayan subtropical mountains the majority of farmers operate mixed crop- livestock farming systems. Land holdings are small and fragmented, consisting mostly of marginal uplands. As a result of growing population, land resources per households are decreasing, with sub-division and fragmentation and land over generations.

    Although the number of livestock per household is decreasing, the total number of livestock has not declined enough to match the reduced per capita resource availability. This is because livestock are an integral part of a large majority of subsistence households and must be maintained at a certain minimum threshold. The most common livestock species in the Himalayan region (as exemplified by Himachal Pradesh) is cattle (42.4%), followed by goat (21.89%), sheep (21.07%) and buffaloes (13.73%). The population of livestock in Himachal Pradesh in 1992 was estimated to be 2.2 million head of cattle, 0.7 million buffaloes, 1.1 million sheep and 1.1 million goats (Table 5). The total livestock population in Himachal Pradesh has not increased significantly during the last one and half decade.

    Sheep Pastoralism

    From the early 1970s until the mid-1990s, nomadic sheep pastoralism from Western Rajasthan into areas of intensive agricultural production in Eastern Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana was on the rise and certain pull factors were made responsible (Agrawal, 1999; Kavoori, 1999; Robbins, 1998). In these areas, irrigation had enabled farmers to generate more than one crop. On one hand this meant that more land was enclosed which led to tensions and hostilities. On the other hand, it generated more biomass: crop residues became available more than once a year, creating added opportunities for pastoralists (Agrawal, 1999). At that time, sheep wool still generated a substantial income and, augmented by the sale of lambs for meat, of dung, and sometimes even ghee, this ensured substantial returns, inducing even non-traditional pastoralists to pursue the option of migration.

    However, although there are no quantitative data available since Kavoori concluded his field studies at the beginning of the 1990s, there is ample circumstantial evidence that in the meantime the situation has changed for the worse and that by now sheep breeding has lost much of its profitability. There is a lack of market demand for wool, and in regards to meat production, sheep can not compete with the more prolific goats. Grazing fees in the neighbouring states whose pasture resources acted as pull factors for migrating sheep, have risen significantly as well. These factors, combined with the constant and increasing fodder shortage, are now causing pastoralists to increasingly opt out of this strategy.

    Goat Pastoralism

    Goat pastoralism is on the increase because of a strong demand for goat meat and due to the drought resistance of this species and its ability to make use of a wide variety of vegetation. Essentially it always escapes starvation. According to Robbins (1994), in Rajasthan meat production grew 47 per cent between 1986 and 1993. Previously, a small number of goats could be found in most rural households, but keeping large flocks of goats exclusively for meat production is a relatively recent phenomenon that could develop because of the increased purchasing power of India’s urban middle class. Whether it is an ecologically desirable development is another question. Camel Pastoralism caste who earlier took care of the breeding herds of the Maharajahs, made a living from breeding camels for the purpose of supplying them to farmers and transport entrepreneurs. The camel is the only one of India’s domestic animals whose population is decreasing. While the demand for camels as draft animals may have diminished in certain more affluent areas, for many of the poor camel ownership still represents a very desirable asset since it provides a reasonable income sufficient to support a family. The reason for the decline of the camel population is therefore rather a reflection of the crisis of camel breeding and pastoralism rather than of a lack of market demand and need.

    Many traditional camel breeders are giving up their occupation, because it has become almost impossible to provide breeding herds with a proper nutritional support base due to the closure of the Aravalli hills and the disappearance of fallow and wastelands. The reproductive rate of camels is very low and a fairly large number of female camels have to be kept to produce a yearly crop of male offspring that is sufficient to provide a reasonable income. Nutritional deficits have also increased the vulnerability of camels to disease. Although the Indian camel population rose from 1,001,000 in 1987 to 1,035,000 in 1992, this overall development hides the fact that during the same time period, the number of young camels (defined as those under 3 years) decreased by more than 50% or by an average of 13.8% per year, signalling a dramatic decline in breeding activities. This trend is confirmed by interviews and surveys of camel breeders perceptions undertaken by LPPS (an NGO) which indicated that 76% of them had experienced declining herd sizes to a level where they were no longer sufficient to support a family. With respect to camel pastoralists, an increasing human population apparently depends on fewer and fewer livestock.

    Cattle Pastoralism

    In the past, many pastoralists were specialised in the breeding of draught cattle. Some of India’s most prized cattle breeds such as Gir and Kankrej were the product of nomadic breeders (Rabari) who supplied bullocks to sedentary farmers. The breeding skills of these cattle nomads generated attention during the pre-Independence period, but more recent studies of them are noticeably absent. This is surprising, since the demand for draught cattle may have slackened, but certainly has not disappeared. Moreover, especially in drought years the media frequently depict huge trucks of more or less emaciated cattle to illustrate the plight of the rural people, so cattle pastoralists certainly persist, even if no further details are available. In addition to nomadic cattle breeders, there are also cattle traders belonging to the Bhat caste who can be seen moving herds from Marwar to Mewar to exploit price differentials. This is another adaptation that urgently requires attention. Policies on Pastoralism and Past Interventions

    Although pastoral production makes a considerable contribution to the economy, there is a remarkable absence of policies addressing its short-term or long-term development. The problem is simply being ignored and there currently appear to be no policies that explicitly address pastoral development, nor is there even a central policy on rangeland development. Neither of the two Union ministries (Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Environment and Forest) whose portfolios impinge on the two central concerns of pastoralists – livestock and pasture – has evidenced any inclination in dealing with these matters from the perspective of pastoralists. With regards to livestock, early development plans of the Department of Animal Husbandry of the Ministry of Agriculture laid the emphasis on development through crossbreeding or hybridization programmes. Later there was some diversification into pasture development and feed & fodder resource development. The goal was to increase the productivity of livestock as well as the pasture resources. Some of the examples of development interventions by the State are presented below:


    The target of animal hybridization is to get a high yield of products from the animals. The crossbreeding of Indian animals with the exotic breeds is believed to be in consonance with the changing needs of the society, which developed across the whole country after Independence (Singh, 1990). There have been many initiatives of crossbreeding undertaken in the Himalayan states as well as in the Western drylands. a. Himalayan Region:

    The development programmes implemented by the Animal Husbandry departments across all the Himalayan states have always focused on raising milk production. There 24 districts of the Himalayan states were adopted under the second phase of the Operation Flood, a milk cooperative scheme. The Operation Flood was planned and implemented for cattle development and therefore the programme covered only the agricultural communities and not the pastoral communities of the Himalayas. Similarly the cross breeding programmes for yaks have a target of catering to the agricultural communities through crossing the local yaks with the cow to produce Dzos which are extensively used in the highland agriculture.

    The only development programme which is well-known amongst the Himalayan pastoralists is wool production. The mountain sheep wool is graded as one of the best quality wool used for making winter clothing and carpets etc. Prior to the Fourth Five Year Plan the Ministry of Agriculture had set up an ad-hoc committee for formulating a sheep breeding policy. Under the programme, large sheep breeding farms, importation of exotic sheep in large numbers, improvement in processes of sheep shearing and wool grading, strengthening of sheep breeding farms and market organisation were planned. The idea was to educate and guide the wool producers to produce good quality wool through better sheep husbandry practices. For the development of sheep and wool industry a substation of the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute (ICAR) in Avikanagar was also established in Kullu valley at Gersa in Himachal Pradesh. The programme included crossbreeding of Australian Merino sheep with the local sheep and formation of the wool cooperatives. The programme did not turn out to be a big success because the wool grading systems and pricing systems of the government cooperatives were non-practical and most of the pastoralists preferred selling their produce to private traders through middlemen.

    This part of India has always been famous for the quality of its indigenous livestock breeds, all of which were developed by pastoralists. Well known breeds include Gir, Kankrej, Tharparkar, Rathi and Nagauri cattle, Bikaneri and Jaisalmeri camels, more than 8 distinct sheep breeds, as well as Marwari and Sirohi goats. The local cattle breeds, such as Gir and Kankrej have been exported to Latin America and other parts of the world, having established worldwide reputation as prime beef breeds. Indian pastoralists whose animal breeding skills amazed colonial veterinarians developed the founder stock. However, because of the past decades’ official emphasis on crossbreeding, these breeds have now become almost extinct in India. Although the government has woken up to the problem and would like to remedy the situation, it does not have the linkages to the pastoralists who keep the remaining animals and is therefore at a loss about how to establish conservation and development programmes for these valuable genetic resources. On a global level – vide the Convention on Biodiversity – there is increasing recognition that plant and animal genetic resources are best conserved in the surroundings in which they are developed. Moreover, there are demands that the indigenous communities that have acted as stewards of these resources must be provided with benefits for their contribution to the global common goods. This idea is gradually gaining ground and holds out some hope for pastoralists as well, since they play a crucial role in the conservation and sustainable use of livestock breeds which harbour genetic traits that have disappeared in high performance breeds (Köhler-Rollefson, 2000).

    In Rajasthan, a specialised sheep and wool department was established in the 1960s for the purpose of ensuring the national wool supply. Its infrastructure consisted of 140 extension centres, 33 Artificial Insemination centres and 6 mobile laboratories. It has now been dismantled and its activities have been reintegrated into those of the department of Animal Husbandry. Its activities focused on upgrading the local sheep breeds through hybridisation with Russian Merino, Rambouillet and Corriedale. Rams with 50% exotic blood were sold to sheep pastoralists at a subsidised rate, however the programme could not be established because of a high mortality rate of lambs and because of reselling of the rams (Ray, 1999).

    Pasture Development

    The past trends of pastoral development programmes have seriously ignored the logic of migratory pastoralism in Himalayas. The non-participation of the pastoralists and their indigenous knowledge system is apparent in the present development programmes. These programmes have been very target-specific and were intended to achieve short-term productivity goals, which also contradict the prevalent resource use practices in the Himalayan states. There are problems with this kind of approach because no efforts have been made to see the compatibility between the productivity targets and the existing availability of resources. And the emphasis has always been on technology: producing high quality livestock through crossbreeding or increasing the pasture quality through the introduction of high yielding fodder varieties. To date only 38 per cent of sheep in Himachal Pradesh are crossbred whereas the pressure for increasing wool yields is eminent across all the local pastoral groups. Ultimately the suitability and viability of crossbred animals and high yield varieties of fodder is being questioned in the Himalayan environment.

    Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP)

    This programme was launched in 1974 with the support of the World Bank and covered about 50 villages by the mid-1980s. It involved organising sheep breeders into co-operatives and enclosing pasturelands into 100 ha plots for the purpose of development. While the pasture development aspect failed, the remnants of the co- operative societies still exist today and the federation of sheep breeders was able to influence policy decisions by the BJP government in their favour (Agrawal, 1999). In conclusion, it can be stated that the policy factors which are responsible for the unfavourable pastoral development trends include non-holistic framework for development policy formulation, agricultural bias, limited funds/low priority, lack of knowledge about the pastoral production systems and non-participation of the local communities.

    The experiences of the last decades have shown that, when genuine economic opportunities open up, pastoralists are quick to take advantage of them and have even overcome age-old social restrictions relating to the commercial production of milk and meat. As in many pastoral societies throughout the world, in traditional Rajasthani culture fresh milk was not meant for commercial utilization, but consumed by the family and offered to guests as a mark of respect and hospitality. Milk was marketed only in the form of ghee. Hindu beliefs also prevent the selling of animals, and in the case of cattle, these are legally enforced in the northern part of India. Examples of pastoralists successfully moving into newly developing market niches, include urban and peri-urban milk marketing which is largely in the hand of Bharvads, but also of Rabari; switch to large scale goat herding for meat production by Rabari and camel milk marketing by Rabari in the Mewar part of Rajasthan and in northern Madhya Pradesh. In the Himalayan region with the help of a local NGOs, the buffalo breeding Gujjars around Dehradun have started to market their milk as “natural” to differentiate it positively from the “synthetic” milk produced by farmers who artificially augment their milk yields through supplementary feeding of urea and administration of various hormones, including oxytocin.

    Camel Milk Marketing

    Rabari from the Mewar area in southern Rajasthan began marketing small amounts of camel milk as long as twenty years ago, purportedly driven by extreme poverty. From these small beginnings, camel milk marketing expanded and is now practiced in many towns throughout Southern Rajasthan and also in parts of Madhya Pradesh where enterprising milk producers migrated to. The milk is sold mostly to tea stalls where it is mixed with that of other animals. In the town of Jawra, camel milk composes an estimated 20 per cent of the total milk volume sold. Nevertheless, it is an activity that has received no acknowledgement from official side and proceeds entirely in the non- formal sector.

    In concrete terms the researchers have noted that the most important development intervention for Himalayan pastoralists would be that of reducing isolationism and forging better links between pastoralists and external resources. Traditional pastoral management systems in the Himalayan region were designed around mobility for favourable forage conditions and the most important input required is to improve the market channels for the better prospects of the Himalayan pastoralists.

    A major factor transforming the situation of pastoralists in the new Millennium would be the globalisation of trade in livestock products. As consumers become more aware about hygiene and food quality, the market may shift against pastoralists and more towards enclosed system. One of the biggest apprehensions pertains to the effect of removal of quantitative restrictions on the import of livestock products. Will import of cheap wool, milk and meat sound the death knell for pastoral livelihoods?

    One factor that could reinforce pastoralism in a positive fashion is the rapid depletion of groundwater resources and lowering of the water table in Rajasthan and other areas that may force farmers to step back from year-round cultivation and open up fallow areas. Furthermore, Government might also look into more sustainable land use strategies and investigate area development plans that favour pastoralism.

    It is becoming increasingly clear that grassroots-level pastoral organizations or associations provide a path to empower pastoralists. Pastoral associations are not new to nomadic societies as traditional grazing management practices often relied on group herding arrangements and informal group tenure of grazing land. In many areas, vestiges and new variations on traditional pastoral organizations exist. Pastoral associations could help facilitate the participation of pastoralists in the design and implementation of development programs, improve the government’s understanding of pastoral systems, contribute to formulating more appropriate policies for land use, and reduce the level of government resources required for monitoring land use. Some of the institutions /organizations which represent the interests of the pastoralists in India, are discussed in this section.

    Community-based Organisations

    Largely community-based organisations work alongside the local Panchayati Raj systems and there are also a few cooperative societies and trade unions of pastoralists that have been formed in the Himalayan states. The Pipon system amongst the Lachen and Lachung pastoral groups in Sikkim, and the Goba, who acts as a political head of the Changpa nomads, are some of the CBOs. There is also a trade union of Gaddis in Himachal Pradesh, established in 1993 to speak for the causes of Gaddi pastorals in the region. Similarly, there are some trade unions of pastoralists functioning in Dharamsala and Kangra regions of Himachal Pradesh and also amongst the Gujjar pastorals of Uttranchal as well. Western Region

    Ber Palak Sang

    This is a federation of shepherd societies (353 societies) composed of nearly 10,000 households from semi-arid western districts of Rajasthan which is chaired by Bhopalaram Raika who maintains close connections to the BJP party (Agrawal, 1999). The previous BJP government often intervened in favour of pastoralists in the context of disputes with the Central government over access to protected forest areas. Pashu Palak Mitr

    Pashu Palak Mitr (literally “friend of the animal breeder”) is a monthly newspaper that has been serving as a communication tool for Raika/Rebari throughout India, for the last five years. It currently has 1570 subscribers/members in 14 states. It has been successful in making some of the problems faced by pastoralists known to the (state) government.

    This is a registered voluntary society (NGO) with the specific objective of improving pastoral livelihoods through advocacy, facilitation and support projects. It developed out of research with camel pastoralists and has a strong base among camel breeders of the Godwar area. Its activities consist of camel health services, training of pastoralists in use of modern medicines, research and documentation on ethnoveterinary medicine, support for camel milk marketing, camel breed improvement, income generation for women, exposure tours etc. LPPS successfully fought the ban on camel milk marketing that was precipitated by the High Court in Jodhpur on the grounds of camel milk being a human health hazard by bringing it to the Supreme Court in Delhi.

    The existence and problems of pastoralists in India have barely filtered into the consciousness of the general public and policy makers. If there is any awareness at all, then pastoralism is regarded as a way of life that is backward and doomed. It is this attitude that requires change. Pastoralism needs to be given recognition and promoted as a land use strategy that is ecologically and economically appropriate in certain marginal areas and basically has the same value in some areas as cultivation and wildlife conservation in others, besides providing positive reinforcements to them. Moreover, pastoralists make an important contribution to the conservation of biodiversity through their sustainable use of indigenous livestock germplasm. Making planners, policy makers and advisors recognize this situation would mean that a major part of the battle was won.

    At the moment the groundwork has not been laid for achieving such a change in perspective. There is hardly any interaction between pastoralists and the actors that could affect their situation. They essentially occupy different spheres that are very far apart and not at all interconnected. Building bridges across this gap, “institutionalizing vertical and horizontal linkages” so that regular and systematic interaction between the pastoralists and the concerned agencies can take place, must be given greatest priority.

    As already mentioned, there is currently no government or non-government institution at the national level that supports pastoral causes. If such an institution is to be built, it is more likely to be successful – and act in a demand-driven way – if it is constructed from the bottom with great care being taken that it receive its impetus from the field, rather than from the top. The first priority must therefore be to strengthen and link field level and grassroots organizations composed of or working with pastoralists, as well as isolated research projects addressing relevant issues. For the Himalayan region, the existing institutions are predominantly involved either in specialised research or planning development programmes with specific pastoral communities in Himalayas. Generally their highly focussed work is on very specific issues and communities, which makes them susceptible to producing results that are contextual and based on subjective assumptions. At present, the foremost requirement is to have a holistic knowledge base on Himalayan pastoralism with an extensive coordination of all the institutions involved in Himalayan pastoralism. For the western drylands it can be stated that there is a need for more rural development NGOs to get interested in working with pastoralists or pastoral associations and to develop the necessary attitude and approaches. Although there are more than a thousand NGOs working in the rural areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat, only a couple of them (LPPS, Marag) attempt to address the problems of pastoralists.

    The activities of NGOs are largely driven by donor preferences, i.e. concentrate on those types of projects that are currently en vogue and therefore likely to be funded – such as watershed development. Donors so far have not shown interest in pastoralists. • NGOs also lack orientation to pursue work with pastoralists and to appreciate their positive qualities. If they involve in animal husbandry projects, they team up with the government departments in promoting A.I. and improved breeds. Instead they should be motivated and trained to understand and document the indigenous knowledge and institutions of pastoralists, as well as their significance.

    The second interface that needs to be built is between NGOs/pastoralists on one side and policy makers and research institutions on the other. Many NGOs concentrate on local activities only without concern for effecting policy changes and even refuse to cooperate with governments. Examples of linkages between NGOs and research organizations are also virtually non-existent. At the local level, it is also of crucial importance, that the forest department is enticed to work with pastoralists. Thirdly, there is a need to combine the voices of pastoralists so they can be heard. While there are some instances where pastoral leaders have managed to effect changes in specific cases or the context of a certain crisis, these are isolated events and too few and far between to achieve sustained impact. There is thus a need for a body that collates information on the various pastoral groups and facilitates exchange, communication and mutual support between them. This could lead towards building regional pastoral platforms and a national pastoral forum. Ideally this in turn should be linked up with pastoral organizations in other countries for establishing a global forum.

    Other responsibilities of such a national level pastoral organization or forum would be to create horizontal linkages between the various government departments that could influence the situation of pastoralists, such as forest/environment, agriculture, revenue and industry. It should strive to establish the credentials of pastoralism as a separate livelihood strategy from agriculture. For this it should be facilitated with its own administrative set up where all the government departments like agriculture, forest, revenue, environment, industry cooperate to sustain and develop pastoralism. But merely representing pastoralists is not enough and it must be emphasized that creating such a platform will not be sufficient until and unless requisite changes are achieved in the institutions and organizations that are supposed to listen. Animal husbandry and veterinary professionals have to change their attitude and need to be equipped with better communication techniques. Training in participatory approaches should be incorporated into the academic curricula. The research institutions, including universities, also need to be enabled to respond to requests for researching issues that are brought to their attention from bottom, especially from pastoralists; such structures for creating a bottom-up research agenda are currently not available.

    Topics in Pastoral Development that Represent “Researchable Constraints” for Livestock Production Programme

    Pastoralism is in crisis globally, both as a result of man-made and natural constraints, and internal and external influences. Even though the buzzword “people’s participation” is on everybody’s agenda, there has been very little progress in truly empowering and allowing participation by pastoralists in their own development process. As already mentioned, of all the pastoral regions of the world, Indian pastoralism is the worst documented by far, with uncertainty about ethnic identities and confused descriptions of pastoral systems. However, there is a growing interest by Government in tackling the issue of pastoral development for socio-economic and socio-political reasons. Therefore, it appears an opportune time to direct research efforts and funds into this sector.

    Importance of village education. (2016, Oct 08). Retrieved from

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