• Pastoralism is a seasonally mobile practice of managing domesticated animal herds on extensive grazing and their mobility marks them as communities that can adapt to changing climatic conditions.
  • Pastoralism has been thought of as a primitive evolutionary stage that hinders biological diversity rather than a resilient form of contemporary life that upholds the title “Keepers of Genes”. How can we reclaim Pastoralism’s stature as a key contributor to the ecosystem?
  • Indian pastoralism is unique in its nature to thrive in a wide variety of vegetation forms, ranging from agricultural village commons to thorny forest lands. Pastoralists are custodians of India’s remarkable animal diversity and significant contributors to our dairy and meat markets.
  • Although India has the second largest population of goats, goat cheese is majorly imported and goat milk does not find itself in the mainstream milk industry, the backlash of which is felt by the pastoralists. How can the state and private agencies work towards improving the livelihoods of pastoralists?
  • India produces 85% carpet grade wool and 10% coarse grade wool, yet Indian carpet producers and artisans favour imported wool. Can this gap between India’s wool production and wool demand be bridged by increased investment and support to India’s wool supply chain?
Across the world, there are communities that manage livestock in a way of life that involves seasonal migrations, sometimes across large stretches of landscape, along with their herds. The livestock may be cattle, buffaloes, goats, sheep, camels or even ducks and pigs. The migrations could be undertaken to leave an area during its dry season in order to access another which has fodder and water at that time. They could be vertical migrations from villages in the foothills to lush alpine meadows at higher altitudes in summer. Wilderness areas such as grasslands or forests are an important source of fodder for these mobile livestock, but the migrations may also be governed by seasonal opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships with settled agricultural communities. In the fallow season, for example, crop stubble on agricultural lands provides nourishment for livestock while dung from the animals provides rich manure for the farmers.
© Ritayan Mukherjee
This kind of mobile livestock herding is known as pastoralism. Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, between 10 and 20 million pastoralists graze India’s forests, grasslands and farm fallows. Their many contributions have rarely been recognized, as mainstream society has tended to see pastoralism​ as an outmoded way of life. In truth, they are custodians of India’s remarkable animal diversity and significant contributors to our dairy and meat markets. Pastoralist mobility, an adaptive response to climatic extremes, also has many vital lessons in the context of climate change. Besides all this, their poetry, music, art and craft form a crucial part of Indian cultural heritage and identity.


Access to
Forage / FRA



India is home to 145 million goats and 74 million sheep, yet it meets most of its cheese and 95% of its wool demands through importation. CfP works on three initiatives namely, Milk Matters, Pastoral Dhanda and Desi Oon, to make indigenous products more freely available in the market and thus improve pastoral livelihoods.
Milk matters: enhancing returns from pastoral milk
The Desi Oon Initiative
Herder migrations can take place over hundreds of kilometres and involve grazing animals in government and private lands that are now inaccessible to them. CfP works with several partners to explore the potential for pastoralist use of provisions within the Forest Rights Act to re-claim access to traditional grazing grounds.
The peripheral position that pastoralism and grasslands occupy in Indian academia translates to limited resources for policy support on pastoralism. To deepen the understanding and facilitate the development of pastoral studies in India, CfP undertakes commissioned research and builds partnerships with a wide range of researchers, universities, and NGOs.
Pastoral ways of life are immersed in rich culture and knowledgeable practice systems which have lost their prominence in public forums and popular imagination/consciousness. CfP’s Outreach program tackles this gap between the Pastoral communities and the public eye through three initiatives- Living Lightly, Pastoral Times, and Pastoral Dialogues.
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