Chapter 5: Pastoralists in the Modern World

5.1 Movement of Pastoral Nomads


Nomads are people who move from one place to the other to escape harsh weather and to find conditions suitable to earn a livelihood. There are different communities of Nomadic Pastoralists in India. Pastoralists are people who earn their living by raising and herding livestock.

The nomads living in these different terrains follow various seasonal movements to earn their livelihood. The Gujjar Bakarwals from Jammu and Kashmir raise herds of goats and sheep and earn a living through livestock. They follow an annual cyclic movement between winter and summer for grazing grounds to find pasture for their herds.

In the winter, when the mountains are covered with snow, they live in the low hills of the Siwalik range, while in the summer, several of their households journey together in a procession as a single group, known as a kafila.

The Gaddi Shepherd tribe of Himachal Pradesh also uses the low hills of the Siwalik as their winter base. By April, they move towards the mountains and spend the summer in Lahul and Spiti. As the snow melts, they move further up the mountains.

The Gujjar cattle herders, who live further to the east in Garhwal and Kumaon, come down to the dry forests of the Bhabar in the winter, and go up to the high meadows – the Bugyals – in the summer.
The Dhangars, are a pastoral community of the central plateau of Maharashtra, consisting of shepherds, blanket weavers and buffalo herders.

During the monsoon they stay in the central plateau of Maharashtra which is a semi-arid region with low rainfall and poor soil. This is an ideal place for their livestock as sheep cannot tolerate the wet monsoon conditions.
Dry crops like bajra are grown and the area also provides a grazing ground for their flocks. After the harvest in October, they move west in search of pastures to reach Konkan. The Gollas herd cattle whereas the Kurumas and Kurubas rear sheep and goats and sell woven blankets.

In the dry season, they all move to the coastal tracts and leave when the monsoon arrives. There are other groups of grazers such as the Banjaras who are found in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

They move in search of pastureland for their cattle, selling plough cattle and other goods to villagers in exchange for grain and fodder. The Raikas are a nomadic tribe of Rajasthan.

They combine cultivation with pastoralism to overcome the difficulties posed by the meagre and uncertain rainfall in the region.

During the monsoon, the Raikas of Barmer, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bikaner stay in their villages. By October, when the grazing grounds are dry, they move in search of other pastures and water, and return during the next monsoon.

There are two other groups, Maru also known as the desert Raikas – who herd camels and another group who rear sheep and goat.

Nomadic pastoralists adjust their movements and activities according to the surrounding conditions to make a living. Unlike mountain pastoralists, whose movement is controlled by the cold and the snow, it is the alternation of the monsoon and the dry season that governs the cyclic movements of pastoralists in the plateaus, plains and deserts. 5.2 Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life


The British viewed all uncultivated land as wasteland that did not earn any revenue nor render any agricultural produce, and so they passed various ‘Wasteland’ rules.

The British thought the nomads as criminal and untrustworthy, and felt the need to keep them in a fixed area so that they could control them easily. The wastelands were used for the cultivation of jute, cotton, wheat and other agricultural produce to meet the needs of the population of England.

The access to forests was snatched away. The British passed the Forest Act was passed, under which many of the forests that produced commercial timber like teak and Sal were marked as ‘Reserved,’ and the pastoralists, were barred from entering them.

However, some forests were demarcated as ‘Protected’ and only certain customary grazing rights were granted there. However, their movements were greatly restricted and controlled as forest officials believed that grazing destroyed the saplings and young shoots of trees that germinated on the forest floor.

Pastoralists were issued permits for grazing, and the time of entry and departure were strictly monitored and limited.

The entire nomadic pastoral community in India was facing a tough time because the British were suspicious of and distrusted them.

The British felt that it was easy to control and monitor a settled population which was seen as peaceable and law abiding. The British passed the Criminal Tribes Act in 1871 to control the nomadic pastoralists and to immobilise them.

Under this Act, several communities of craftsmen, traders and pastoralists were classified as criminal tribes. Even without committing a single act of crime, we were identified to be criminal by nature and birth

Owing to this Act, they were expected to live in fixed notified villages under strict supervision of the village police and were allowed to move only with a permit. The colonial government imposed various taxes on land, canal water, salt, trade goods, and even on animals to increase its revenue.

Mowing Business Plan 5.3 Pastoralism in Africa

enter Summary

Africa, the second largest continent in the world with a history of colonialism is home to many pastoral communities like Bedouins, Berbers, Maasai, Somali, Boran and Turkana.

They live in semi-arid grasslands where agriculture is not possible and earn a living through their livestock like cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys by selling their milk, meat, animal skin and wool.

The harsh effects of Colonialism changed the lives of African pastoralists drastically. The Maasai tribe was victims of the colonial rule living on the eastern Africa. One of the major changes was the loss of pastoral lands.

In the pre-colonial period the Maasai land stretched from north Kenya to northern Tanzania but in 1885 was cut into half with an international boundary between British Kenya and German Tanganyika. 60% of Maasai land was taken over for white settlements pushing the Massai’s to an arid zone with uncertain rainfall and poor pastures.

The British colonial government encouraged local peasant communities to expand cultivation consuming the pasturelands of the Maasai. Large areas of grazing land were converted into game reserves like the Maasai Mara and Samburu National Park in Kenya and Serengeti Park in Tanzania.

Though an income source for the colonizers, it was a blow to the pastoralists as they were not allowed to enter these reserves; nor hunt animals or graze their herds in turn affecting their livelihood. The droughts of 1933 and 1934 caused immense damage to the Massai’s losing half of their livestock.

The British colonists interfered in the traditional customs of the Maasai trying controlling their society. The British appointed various chiefs from other sub groups and placed restrictions on warfare and raiding.

The appointed chiefs became rich by trading in the towns and lending money to the poor pastoralists at high interest rates. They worked in towns, building roads and in construction, as charcoal burner or doing odd jobs. This also caused a huge distinction between the rich and the poor pastoralists.