Pastoralists and their livestock are major contributors to our agrarian, meat, dairy, and leather economies. However, data representing the scale and impact of this economy is not currently being measured. We believe that in the absence of such data, the varied economic contributions of the pastoral economy will remain under the radar, with significant absences in the visibility of pastoralism or support made available. Our project aims to understand, quantify and depict India’s pastoral economies. Our focus is on understanding the pastoral household, the value chains for meat, milk and live animal sales and the scale of sedentarisation across pastoral communities. As a pilot project, we have begun work in Himachal Pradesh. This is a one-year project and we began work in September 2022. CfP is working on this project in collaboration with Dr. Ashwini Chhatre at the Bharti School of Public Policy, Indian School of Business.
In addition to the pilot study in Himachal Pradesh, we have also begun work in Gujarat toward understanding the pastoral economy and value chains. Given that Gujarat is a drastically different landscape, accounting for different kinds of pastoral communities, cultures and livestock, data from this landscape will help complement our work in Himachal. Our project in Gujarat began in December 2022 and will culminate in November 2023.
We have embarked on a mapping of pastoral communities and their grazing routes across the country, as a means of countering the idea that these are marginal communities, persisting in low numbers across limited parts of the Indian landscape. We have initiated the mapping efforts in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand and hope to complete a fuller mapping of the remainder of the country over the coming 2 years. Without such data, we believe pastoralism is destined to remain on the margins – both physically and in the minds of policymakers.
A cartographic representation across the country will be a more effective mode of capturing the scale of pastoralist presence rather than a simple listing of districts they are found in. Mapped routes presented in the atlas will be overlayed with remotely sensed data on vegetation, moisture, fire, land use and tenure spread over thirty years, as a means of documenting the magnitude of climate change, development and conservation-related policies that have negatively affected pastoralist ability to access traditionally grazed areas.
The map shown above uses migratory route information from CfP’s Atlas project in Himachal Pradesh. Our project focuses on pastoral route locations reported by herders based on the previous year’s route. This map shows the spread of these reported locations and the prominent routes we observed as a result.
This project began in 2019 and is led by research team member Emmanuel Theophilus. It combines research and community interventions to arrive at a common understanding of drivers affecting pastoral practices in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. The project also has an applied dimension that initiates community action to address critical problems across the landscape.
The main activities:
To conserve traditional wool weaving artisanal skills using the coarse wool from indigenous sheep and ensuring its production and marketing, we train women in the now-rare skill of weaving with back-strap looms, also conserving indigenous tweeds and other fabrics by securing remunerative prices.
We commissioned Zanskar T. Singh to work with the Van Gujjars in Uttarakhand to document the range of plant species their livestock depend upon. The year-long documentation will cover the entire migratory route used by these pastoralists, with the objective of engaging with pastoralists on their understanding of these forests, the impact of their grazing on these systems, and the varied uses they make of these plant complexes. Results from this project were presented as an exhibit at the Van Utsav in Rajaji National Park in March 2022 and will be used in the future for our advocacy on traditional uses of biodiversity and Van Gujjar knowledge systems.
This study was a commissioned project to examine the penning of livestock (small and large ruminants) under mobile pastoralism in the Deccan Plateau. The study attempts to understand the scale at which penning continues in Maharashtra and Telangana, the economics of penning and the factors that influence a herders’ interest in continuing with the tradition. We expect to publish the report in the winter of 2022, and use the data to inform our penning and dung economy-based interventions. These studies on penning and wool are part of a series of national reports we hope to produce to better understand these value chains to feed into our advocacy efforts.