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An Atlas on Indian Pastoralism

A study to map and visualise the spread of pastoralists in the country
Aniruddh Sheth_Kangra_Gaddi Pastoralist making tea_960_600
© Aniruddh Sheth
Nov 15, 2022
Author: CfP Staff

The idea for an Atlas on Indian Pastoralism was born out of a need to emphasise the magnitude of pastoral presence in the Indian landscape. This Atlas will document the temporal, spatial, ecological and cultural routes of pastoral people, across multiple geographies in the country. The visualisation of pastoral landscapes will aid in any advocacy we wish to undertake with regard to access rights and state investments in supporting pastoralist livelihoods. By overlaying a range of cultural elements over our grazing routes, we aim to celebrate pastoral lives and their contributions to the Indian mainstream, very much in line with the Living Lightly Exhibitions.

A visual representation of the spread is likely to be more effective than a mere statement of spread in a word document. A second problem we hope to address is the assumption that pastoralist mobility lacks any kind of rationality. We hope to use the atlas to showcase such mobility as being premised on an ecological and economic rationale. A third objective would be to quantify vegetation, land use and tenure changes along migratory routes, as a means of substantiating the argument that developmental and conservation agendas have actively undermined pastoral livelihoods. A fourth objective is more celebratory and educational, with the expectation that we will be in a position to overlay a variety of cultural, economic and other information over the migratory routes that we hope to map. We also want to focus on how these four objectives have changed over time. As pastoral practices adapt to changing circumstances around them including ecological, social, economic and political, it would be crucial to represent how pastoralism has evolved in various landscapes.

Photo credits: Aniruddh Sheth

To create this atlas, CfP intends to include all regions in India where there is an active pastoral presence. To meet this goal, we begin this work with a pilot project in Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. Our pilot study will involve collecting data on the temporal and spatial presence of herders in these two states. We are interested in grazing routes, changes in vegetation, land-use, tenure, availability of health services, markets to sell pastoral products like wool, meat and milk and change over time in pastoral practices. The pilot stage will help us to experiment with using different sources of data to test ease of gathering, efficacy and the potential of adding other layers on top of our map.

We believe such a systematic mapping exercise would provide policymakers, academics, civil society and others with a sense of just how widespread pastoralism is in the country.

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