Pastoralists In The Modern World

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06 Pastoralists In The Modern World

Pastoral Nomads and their Movements

In the mountains

  • In the 19th century, Gujjar Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir migrated there in search of pastures for their animals.
  • The Gaddi shepherds of Himachal Pradesh followed a cycle of seasonal movement.
  • The Gujjar cattle herders in Garhwal and Kumaon in the east came to dry forests of the bhabar in winter and went to high meadows called the bugyals in summer.
  • The Himalayan communities of Bhotiyas, Sherpas and Kinnuaris followed patterns of cyclical movements between summer and winter pastures.

On the Plateaus, Plains and Deserts

  • Among the pastoralists that lived in plateaus, plains and deserts in India, the Dhangars of Maharashtra are a significant one.
  • The seasonal rhythm of their movement was defined by alterations of the monsoon and dry season.
  • Another important group were the Banjaras in the villages of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.
  • The Raikas lived in the deserts of Rajasthan where rainfall was meagre and uncertain.

Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life

  • The changes were implemented by the British in the following ways:
    • First, the colonial rule wanted to transform all grazing lands into agricultural farms.
    • Second, various Forest Acts were being enacted in different provinces by the mid-19th century.
    • Third, British officials held suspicions about nomads.
    • Fourth, the colonial government collected tax from all possible sources to expand its income through revenue.

How did these changes affect the Lives of Pastoralists?

  • After imposition of restrictions on pastoral movements, quality of pastures declined in grazing lands that were continuously used.
  • This led to shortage of forage for animals and deterioration of animal stock.

How did the Pastoralists Cope with these Changes?

  • Pastoralists reduced the number of cattle in their herds as there was insufficient pasture to feed them.
  • After the partition, many migrated to Haryana.
  • Richer pastoralists settled down in their newly bought lands and gave up their nomadic life over the years.
  • The poorer pastoralists borrowed money from moneylenders in exchange of their cattle and sheep or worked in fields or small towns as labourers.

Pastoralism in Africa

  • Bedouins, Berbers, Maasai, Somali, Boran and Turkana are some communities that depend on some form of pastoral activity for survival.
  • Some engage in trade and transport while others combine pastoral activity with agriculture and other odd jobs.
  • Due to imposition of law and regulations, their lands had been taken away and movement was restricted, which affected their lives during droughts and reshaped their social relationships.

Where have the grazing lands gone?

  • In 1885, Maasailand was divided into two parts: British Kenya and German Tanganyika.
  • The Maasai lost 60% of the lands and became confined to an arid zone with uncertain rainfall and poor pastures.
  • The loss of such fine grazing lands and water resources created pressure on the small areas of land that the Maasai were bound in.

The Borders are Closed

  • The lives of pastoralists and their pastoral and trading activities were affected by new territorial boundaries and restrictions.

When Pastures Dry

  • A large number of Maasai cattle died of starvation and disease during drought as they were no longer shifted to new pastures.

Not All were Equally Affected

  • The British appointed chiefs for different sub-groups of Maasai and they were made responsible for the affairs of the tribe.
  • Raiding and warfare was restricted and the traditional authority of the elders and warriors was affected adversely.
  • The poor pastoralists who depended entirely on livestock did not have resources to overcome tough times like war and famine.

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