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PASTORALISM IN INDIA and CLIMATE CHANGE



  May 29, 2024

PASTORALISM IN INDIA and CLIMATE CHANGE



CONTEXT

Pastoralism, an ancient yet dynamic livelihood system, involves the migratory herding of livestock. Despite its historical and contemporary importance, it is often misunderstood and overlooked. Far from being an outdated practice, pastoralism offers a multifaceted production system that contributes significantly to the economy, culture, and environmental sustainability. From providing essential goods like milk, meat, fiber, and hides to offering employment opportunities and environmental benefits such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity enhancement, pastoralism plays a crucial role in various sectors including agriculture, tourism, and nature conservation.

PASTORALISM IN INDIA

India’s pastoral landscape is remarkably diverse, with over 13 million people engaged in migratory livestock rearing. Despite this, the significance of pastoralism is often underrepresented in official records and policy frameworks, complicating efforts to support this vital livelihood. India holds significant global rankings in livestock production, being the largest producer of milk and buffalo meat, the second-largest producer of goat meat, and the third-largest in egg production. Wool exports also contribute substantially to the economy. However, the lack of disaggregated data distinguishing between extensive and intensive practices makes it challenging to accurately assess pastoral contributions.

CHALLENGES

1. Policy Neglect: Pastoralists have historically been marginalized by policies favoring sedentary livestock production and conservation models that exclude them from traditional grazing lands. This long-standing neglect is rooted in colonial-era policies that remain largely unchanged.

2. Land Tenure Issues: Customary land rights of pastoralists are frequently unrecognized, leading to insecure land tenure and non-availability of essential resources. The Forest Rights Act (FRA), intended to formalize these rights, has largely failed to benefit pastoralists.

3. Climate Change: Environmental pressures, including climate change, exacerbate existing conflicts over resources, affecting pastoral communities adversely. These challenges include erratic weather patterns, droughts, and reduced availability of grazing lands.

SOLUTIONS

1. Recognition and Integration: Recognize pastoralism as a sustainable green economy and integrate it into broader development strategies. Governments should acknowledge its contributions to food security, environmental health, and cultural heritage.

2. Supportive Policies: Develop policies that cater to the unique needs of pastoralists, including healthcare, mobility, and resource access. The recent formation of a pastoral cell by the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying is a step in the right direction.

3. Technological Innovations: Implement smart cards for streamlined migration and access to government services. These cards can facilitate documentation, permissions, and access to various entitlements, reducing bureaucratic hurdles.

4. Economic Diversification: Promote value addition, product diversification, and training to enhance economic prospects. Pastoralists can benefit from skills training in processing livestock products and accessing markets.

5. Eco-Tourism and Cultural Preservation: Support initiatives like eco-tourism and eco-museums to preserve pastoral cultures and create diversified income opportunities. Projects such as the Shaam-e-Sarhad Village Resort in Kutch demonstrate how pastoral communities can engage in sustainable tourism.

PRIORITY AREAS

1. Land Tenure and Resource Access: Strengthen tenure arrangements and recognize the dependency on common resources. Policies should ensure secure access to grazing lands and water resources.

2. Technological Interventions: Facilitate mobility through smart cards and other technological solutions. These innovations can streamline processes and provide essential services to pastoralists during their migrations.

3. Migration-Friendly Systems: Develop extension systems tailored to pastoral populations. Extension services should be adapted to support the unique needs of migratory livestock rearing practices.

4. Economic Support: Offer training for value addition and diversification, and ensure fair pricing and market linkages. State-supported market linkages can help pastoralists access wider markets and achieve better economic outcomes.

5. Carbon Trade Inclusion: Develop a roadmap for pastoralists’ inclusion in carbon trade markets and ecosystem service monetization. Recognizing the environmental benefits of pastoralism can open new revenue streams for pastoral communities.

ENDNOTE

The rich tapestry of Indian pastoralism—from bleating sheep in the north to snorting camels in the west, quacking ducks in the south, and mooing yaks in the east—demands renewed attention. To pause environmental degradation and unsustainable consumption patterns attributed to sedentary, specialized, and feed-intensive cattle farming, pastoralism offers a sustainable alternative. By embracing mobility, adaptability, and a deep connection to the land, pastoralists can lead the charge in agro-ecological transformation and climate resilience. Holistic understanding and promotion of pastoralism are essential for harnessing its full potential, which holds immense promise for a sustainable and resilient future in food systems.


SRIRAM’s
 


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