Pastoralists in The Modern World
PASTORAL NOMADS AND THEIR MOVEMENTS
(i) Main occupation: Nomad people depend primarily on animal rearing. Goats, sheep, camels and buffaloes are the main animals reared by the nomads. Some of the nomads also cultivate crops.
(ii) Movements: Nomads do not move randomly across the landscape but have a strong sense of territoriality. They are aware of physical and cultural characteristics of the region of their movement.
(iii) Food: Pastoral nomads consume mostly grain rather than meet. They consume wheat, rice, bajra and malze. Some of the food grains are grown by themselves and some are arranged from the path of their movement.
(iv) Economic life: Most of the nomadic people follows barter system, though some use money also. They exchange animals for food or grains.
(v) Selection of animal: Nomads selects the type and number of animal for the herd according to local cultural and physical characteristics. The choice depends on the relative prestige of animals and the ability of species to adapt to a particular climates and vegetation. The camel is most frequently desired in North Africa and the Middle East, followed by sheep and goats.
(vi) Changing life: The life of the nomads was affected by the spread of European settlers during the 19th century. The Europeans took and fenced land for their own use. Due to this the traditional way of life for the native people was changed for ever. The European drove the original inhabitants of their land or areas.
(a) In the Mountains:
(i) The Gujjar Bakarwals: Gujjar Bakarwals migrated to Jammu and Kashmir in the 19th century in search of pastures for their animals. Gradually, over the decades, they established themselves in the area, and moved annually between their summer and winter grazing grounds. In winter, when the high mountains were covered with snow and there was lack of pasture at the high altitude they moved to low hills of the Shiwalik. The dry scrub forests here provided pastures for their herds. By the end of April they began their northem march for their summer grazing grounds. They crossed the Pir Panjal passes and entered the valley of Kashmir. With the onset of summer, the snow melted and the mountainsides become lush green. By the end of September the Bakarwals started their backward journey.
(ii) The Gaddi shepherds: Gaddi shepherds of Himachal Pradesh spent their winter in the low hills of Shiwalik range, grazing their flocks in scrub forests. by April they moved north and spent the summer in Lahul and Spiti. When the snow melted and the high passes were clear, many of them moved on to higher mountain meadows. By September they began their return movement. On the way they stopped once again in the villages of Lahul and Spiti, reaping their summer harvest and sowing their winter crop. Then descended with their flock to their winter grazing ground on the Shiwalik hills. Next April, once again, they began their march with their goats and sheep, to the summer meadows.
(iii) Movement in Garhwal and Kumaon: The Gujjar cattle herders come down to the dry forests of the bhabar in the winter, and went up the high meadows – the bugyals – in summer. many of them were originally from Jammu and came to the UP hills in the nineteenth century in search of good pastures.
(iv) Other Pastoral nomads: cyclical movement between summer and winter pastures is typical of many pastoral communities of the Himalayas, including the Bhotiyas, Sherpas and Kinnauris. All of them had to adjust to seasonal changes and make effective use of available pastures in different places.
(b) On the Plateaus, Plains and Deserts:
(i) The Dhangars: the Dhangars were an important pastoral community of Maharashtra. They used to stay in the semi-arid central plateau of Maharashtra during the monsoon. Due to the low rainfall only dry crops could be grown there. In the monsoon these regions become a vast grazing ground for the Dhangars flocks. By October the Dhangars harvested their dry crops. During this season there was shortage of grazing ground so Dhangars had to move towards west. After about a month, they reached Konkan. In this region the locals used to welcome as the flocks of Dhangars provided manure to the field and fed on the stubble.
With the onset of the monosoon the Dhangars, after collecting supplies of rice and other food grains, used to leave the Konkan and returned to their settlements on the dry plateau.
(ii) The Gollas, Kurmas and Kurubas: in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh the dry central plateau was covered with grass, inhabited by cattle, goat and sheep herders. The Gollas herded cattle. The Kurmas and Kurubas reared sheep and goats and sold woven blankets. They lived near the woods; cultivated small parches of land, engaged in a variety of petty trades and took care of their herds. The seasonal rhythms of their movement was decided by the alternation of the monosoon and dry season. In the dry season they moved to the coastal tracts, and left when the rains came.
(iii) The Raikas: Raikas were the nomads of Rajasthan. They were divided into two groups. One group of Raikas-known as the Maru Raikas-herded camels and another group reared sheep and goats. Cultivation and pastoralism were their primary activities. During the monsoon they stayed in their home villages where pasture was available. By October, when these grazing grounds were dry and exhausted, they moved out in search of other pastures and water.
(c) “The Pastoral groups had sustained by a careful consideration of a host of factors.”:
(i) Climatic Factors: they had to judge the climatic conditions of the regions where they wanted to move. They had to judge how long the herds could stay in one area and where they could find water and pasture.
(ii) Timing: they needed to calculate the timing of their movements and ensure that could move through different territories.
(iii) Relationship: they had to set up a relationship with farmers so that herds could graze in harvested fields and manure the soil.
(iv) Different activities: they combined a range of different activities – cultivation, trade and herding to make their living.
Colonial government enacted different laws that had adversely affected the living conditions of nomadic tribes and pastoral communities. The colonial government was driven by the following motives:
(i) The government wanted to convert all grazing into cultivated farms. This way, they wanted to raise more
revenue in the form of taxes.
(ii) The government wanted to protect forests, as forests were required to meet their own urgent needs of railways, shipbuilding, etc.
(iii) British officials were suspicious of nomadic people. They were stated to be criminal by nature and birth.
(iv) To expand its revenue income, the government looked for every possible source of taxation. So tax was imposed on land, on canal water, on salt, on traded goods, and even on animals.
The measures led to a serious shortage of pastures. When grazing lands were taken over and turned into cultivated fields, the available area of pasture land declined. Similarly, the reservation of forests meant that shepherds and cattle herders could no longer freely pasture their cattle in the forests. As pasturelands disappeared under the plough, the existing animal stock had to feed on whatever grazing land remained. This led to continuous intensive grazing of these pastures. This in turn created a further shortage of forage for animals and the deterioration of animal stock. Underfed cattle died in large numbers during scarcities and famines.
(a) The impact of Forest Acts on the Nomads or Pastoralists:
(i) Through these Acts some forests which produced commercially valuable timber like deodar or Sal were declared reserved. Access to these forests was not allowed.
(ii) These Forests Acts changed the lives of pastoralists. They were now prevented from entering many forests that had earlier provided valuable forage for their cattle. Even in the areas they were allowed entry. Their movements were regulated. They needed a permit for entry. The timing of their entry and departure was specified, and the number of days they could spend in the forest was limited.
(iii) Pastoralists could no longer remain in an area even if forage was available, the grass was succulent and the undergrowth in the forest was ample. They had to move because the Forest Department permits that had been issued to them now ruled their lives.
(iv) The permit specified the periods in which they could be legally within a forest. if they overstayed they were liable to fines.
Waste Land Rules:
Under the Waste Land Rule uncultivated land was brought under cultivation. the basic aim was to increase land revenue because by expanding cultivation Government could increase its revenue collection . Crops like jute, cotton and indigo were used as raw material in England. So the British government wanted to bring more and more areas under these crops.
Impact on the lives of the pastoralists:
(i) After the Act pastoral movements were restricted.
(ii) Under the Act the grazing land was given to big landlords. Due to this nomads grazing grounds shrank.
(iii) Due to shrinking grazing grounds the agricultural stock of the nomads declined and their trade and crafts were adversely affected.
Criminal Tribes Act:
In 1871, the colonial government in India passed the Criminal Tribes Act. By this Act many communities of craftsmen, traders and pastoralists were classified as Criminal tribes. They were stated to be criminal by nature and birth. Once this Act came into force, these communities were expected to live only in notified village settlements. They were not allowed to move out without a permit. The village police kept a continuous watch on them. This restricted their grazing grounds. Their agricultural stock declined and their trades and crafts were adversely affected.
Grazing tax was imposed on the pastoralists. Pastoralists had to pay tax on every animal they grazed on the pastures. In most pastoral tracts of India, grazing tax was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century. The tax per head of cattle went up rapidly and the system of collection was made increasingly efficient. In the decades between the 1850s and 1880s the right to collect the tax was auctioned out to contractors. These contractors tried to extract as high a fax as they could to recover the money they had paid to the state and earn as much profit as they could within the year. By the 1880s the government began collecting taxes directly from the pastoralists. Each of them was given a pass. To enter a grazing tract, a cattle herder had to show the pass and pay the tax. The number of cattle heads he had and the amount of tax he paid was entered on the pass.
Impact in the lives of pastoralists:
(i) As the tax had to be paid in cash so pastoralists started selling their animals
(ii) The heavy burden of taxes had an adverse impact on their economic status. Now most of pastoralists started taking loans from the money leaders.
(b) How did the Pastoralists cope with the changes?
Pastoralists reduced to these changes in a variety of ways:
(i) Some reduced the number of cattle in their herds, since there was not enough pasture to feed large numbers.
(ii) Others discovered new pastures when movement to old grazing grounds became difficult.
(iii) Over the years, come richer pastoralists began buying land and setting down, giving up their nomadic life.
(iv) Some became settled peasants cultivating land, others took to more extensive trading. Many poor pastoralists, on the other hand, borrowed money from moneylenders to survive.
(v) At times they lost their cattle and sheep and became labourers, working on fields or in small towns.
PASTORALISM IN AFRICA
Over 22 million Africans depend on some form of pastoral activity for their livelihood. They include communities like Bedouins, Berbers, Maasai, Somali, Boran and Turkana. Most of them now live in the semi-arid grasslands or arid deserts where rain fed agriculture is difficult. They raise cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys; and they sell milk, meat, animal skin and wool. Some also earn through trade and transport, others combine pastoral activity with agriculture; still others do a variety of odd jobs to supplement their meager and uncertain earnings from pastoralism.
(a) Where have the Grazing Lands Gone?
Before arrival of the colonial rulers, the Maasaliand spread over a vast area from North Kenya to the steppes of northem Tanzania. This gradually shrank due to the following reasons:
(i) The colonial powers were hungry for colonial possession in Africa. Once they reached Africa, they began to cut it down in different colonies.
(ii) The best grazing lands were gradually taken over for white settlement. Massai were pushed into a small area in south Kenya and north Tanzania.
(iii) The colonial government promoted cultivation. Local peasant communities began to take control over the pastoral lands. Pastoral lands further fell.
(iv) Large areas of land were also turned into game reserves. Pastoralists were not allowed to enter these reserves; they could neither hunt animals nor graze their in these areas. Very often these reserves were in area that had traditionally been regular grazing grounds for Maasai herds.
(v) The loss of the finest grazing lands and water resources created pressure on the small area of land that the Maasai were confined within. Continuous grazing within a small area inevitably meant a deterioration of the quality of pastures. Fodder was always in short supply. Freeding the cattle became a persistent problem.
(b) The Borders are Closed:
(i) From the late nineteenth century, the colonial government began imposing various restrictions on the mobility of the pastures. Special permits were issued to the people. They were not allowed to move out with their stock without special permits. And it was difficult to get permits without trouble and harassment.
(ii) Pastoralists were also not allowed to enter the markers in white areas. in many regions, they were prohibited from participating in any form of trade. So now they were fully dependent on their stock.
(iii) When restrictions were imposed on pastoral movements, grazing lands came to be continuously used and the quality of pastures declined. This in turn created a further shortage of forage for animals and the deterioration of animal stock.
(iv) Now most of the nomads were forced to live within a semi-arid tract prone to frequent droughts.
(c) When Pastures Dry:
(i) Traditionally pastoralists are nomadic; they move from place to place. This nomadism allows them to survive bad times and avoid crises.
(ii) From the colonial period, the Maasai were bound down to a fixed area, prohibited from moving in search of pastures. They were cut off from the best grazing lands and forced to live within a semi-arid tract prone to frequent droughts. Since they could not shift their cattle to palaces where pastures were available, large numbers of Maasai cattle died of starvation and disease in these years of drought.
(iii) As the area of grazing lands shrank, the adverse effect of the droughts increased in intensity. The frequent bad years led to a steady decline of the animal stock of the pastoralists.
(d) Not All were Equally Affected:
(i) In pre-colonial times Maasai society was divided into two social categories-elders and warriors. The elders formed the ruling group and met in periodic councils to decide on the affairs of the community and settle disputes. The warriors consisted of younger people, mainly responsible for the protection of the tribe. They defended the community and organized cattle raids. Young men came to be recognized as members of the warrior class when they proved their manliness by raiding the cattle of other pastoral groups and participating in wars. They, however, were subject to the authority of the elders.
(ii) After the arrival of Britishers there was a change in the political set up of the tribes. The British started appointing chiefs of different sub-groups and imposed various restrictions on raiding and warfare. With the passage of time these chiefs started accumulating wealth and became very rich and started lending money to poor class. Many of these chiefs started living in towns and got themselves involved into other economic actives. The life of the poor pastoralists was miserable. They did not have resources to tide over bad times.
In times war and famine, they lost nearly ever thing. Most of them started working as labourers.
(iii) The social changes in Massai society occurred at two levels. first , the traditional difference based on age, between the elders and warriors, was disturbed , though it did not break down entirely . Second, a new distinction between the wealthy and poor pastoralists developed.
(i) Pastoral community is different parts of the world were affected in a variety of different ways by changes in the modem world. New laws and new borders affect the patterns of their movement. With increasing restrictions on their mobility, pastoralists find it difficult to move in search of pastures. as pasture lands disappear grazing becomes a problem . Pastures that remain deteriorate through continuous over grazing. Times oaf drought become times of crisis, when cattle die in large numbers.
(ii) Pastoralists do adapt to new times. They change the paths of their annul movement, reduce their cattle numbers, press for rights to enter new areas, exert political pressure on the government for relief, subsidy and other forms of support and demand a right in the management of forests and water resources. Pastoralists are not relics of the past. They are not people who have no place in the modern world. Environmentalsits and economists have increasingly come to recognise that pastoral nomadism is a form of life that is perfectly suited to many hilly and dry regions of the world.