Conferences & Consultations

Stakeholder Consultations

Living Lightly creates a formal space for advocacy and invites institutions and
networks to organize focussed discussions between pastoralists, the state,
academicians and practitioners.

In the first Living Lightly exhibition at IGNCA, Delhi, the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) and The Rainfed Livestock Network in India organized a consultation titled The future of India’s Livestock Sector: What is the role of pastoralists? This consultative platform had over 90 participants from India and abroad. The Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India, Shri Purshottam Rupala, was an engaged participant and speaker, along with a large delegation of pastoralists from Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Orissa.

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The consultation deliberated on the need to evaluate and assess pastoralists contributions to the economy, understand the complex set of challenges that pastoralists face, and develop a long term perspective on pastoralism as well as what it had to offer to the next generation. This was perhaps the first time that such a composite group of people had come together to discuss the present and future of “pastoralism” and “pastoralists’ in India.

The sessions concluded with a team of experts drawing up a set of summary recommendations and participants concurring that for pastoralism to attract due attention, investment and policy initiatives, a separate department or Mission for pastoralists should be considered under the Ministry of Agriculture.
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A tall, well built man with a long beard wearing a sherwani and distinctive pugree explains,

“We Van Gujjaras are buffalo breeders. We migrate into the alpines during the summers and return to the lower Himalayas crossing the Rajaji National Park. We have done this for centuries, ever since they migrated from Kashmir with their animals. In 2009 the Forest Department permanently stopped us from crossing the National Park, seriously compromising our security, profession and lifestyle.”

A Van Gujjar elder speaks at a consultation

The Gujjars of Savai Madhapar were resettled outside their traditional home, the Ranthambore National Park, in Rajasthan around the same time. Their Buffalos milk yields reduced to less than half, in the sedentary farms they had to settle into. Most of the Gujjars have had to give up animal keeping altogether, bringing their breed close to extinction, explains Ambalal.
Almost all the pastoralists present in the meeting organised by MOTA FRA cell, Vasundhara and Sahjeevan had similar stories of discrimination and harassment. They were surprised that the Forest Department could not see the benefits their animals brought to the ecologies of the National Parks and the very wild species they hoped to protect. As Magan Raika from Rajasthan explains, “if our lifestyles are dangerous for the forests, how is it that the only forests left in the country are where there are pastoralists?! We protected the forest’s FRA Workshops even before the Forest department came to manage them!”

Herders and members of civil society at a Goshti in IGNCA, Delhi

It is precisely this understanding that has been enshrined by our lawmakers in the 2006 Forest Rights Act. The seminar on ‘FRA and Pastoralism’ organised for the very first time, since the Act was promulgated, listened to over 15 pastoralist communities from 10 states of India. Madhu Sarin, who was a member of the drafting committee of the Act explained that as pastoralists are in minority in many villages and cannot set up VLC’s (Village Level Committees, the legal entity to accord rights) and travel through several villages and even districts and states, their claims should be facilitated by the Collector as Chair of the District Level FRA Committee. This amendment was made in 2012.
Sandeep Virmani from Sahjeevan explained that the Act recognised that sustainable wealth generation can flourish when land is managed as ‘commons’ and the Act provides Community rights Titles to such communities over the forests. Tushar Dash from Vasundhra, explained that while many tribals have been given their individual and community rights over forests, no pastoralist community has yet been granted title.

Gani bhai, a herder from Kachchh presents his thoughts at a consultation

The Banni pastoralists of Kachchh shared how 46 settlements of 2500 sq km have laid a single claim over the entire grassland. While the village, block and district committees have approved their claim, they are yet to receive their titles. They have already begun preparing their management plans on how to regenerate the neglected landscape.
All the communities agreed to form a fund for working towards their community claims and took a pledge to work together towards their rights. The representatives from the FRA cell of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs asked the organisers to provide a list of pastoral communities across the county, so that they can provide guidelines and instructions to the states to expedite pastoralist rights.

Leaders of herding communities taking an oath to work together to fight for their grazing rights.

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In the Ahmedabad edition of Living Lightly, a consultation on Pastoral animal breeds was held on the sidelines. This workshop titled the National Workshop on Recognition, Registration and Conservation of Livestock Populations in Pastoral Ecosystem, was organized with the broad objective of launching a nationwide programme using a commonly accepted methodology for the identification, registration and conservation of indigenous livestock breeds that are developed by pastoralists in different regions and for different purposes.

A session at the conference

These include cattle breeds, goats and sheep, ponies, donkeys and so forth – livestock upon which the livelihoods of pastoralist communities are founded. The workshop was a collaborative initiative of the Government of Gujarat, Centre for Pastoralism (CfP) and the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources (NBAGR).

The workshop was inaugurated by Smt Krishna Raj, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Government of India and was attended by senior officials from the Government of Gujarat, the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, and by animal husbandry departments from many states. Large numbers of representatives of pastoralist communities from across the country were present alongside members of civil society organizations and academics.

Chief Guest Smt. Krishna Raj (then Minister of State, GOI) and Sanjay Prasad being greeted by herders

Following an inaugural session, the 2-day workshop was divided into technical sessions, which highlighted the importance of indigenous breeds from an economic and climate change perspective; the need and process for registration of Pastoral animal breeds, and covered experiences of different States in implementing policies and programs on recognizing pastoral livestock breeds. In conclusion, a decision was taken to initiate consultations in 3-4 states through which specific pastoral communities and their breeds could be identified by each state for furthering the process of registration and recognition.

The consultation saw participation from members of academia, government officials, herders and practitioners from regions across India

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As part of CfP’s interest in exploring ways to raise herder revenues, a half-day consultation was held in Ahmedabad on the sidelines of LL, to explore the potential for and challenges that might accompany initiatives aimed at the production of goat cheese

The consultation was attended by cheese-making entrepreneurs, members of civil society organizations
working with pastoralist communities, and pastoralists themselves. Our discussions revolved primarily around experiences shared by Chris Zandee, of Himalayan Cheese; Apoorva Oza, of the AKRSP, and
Aditya Raghavan, a cheese-making consultant and artisanal cheese enthusiast.

A number of likely challenges associated with the production of goat cheese were highlighted, including the key question of hygiene, the criticality of maintaining optimal temperatures during both production and curing of goat cheese, its relatively short shelf-life, the problem of procuring undiluted goat milk, and the capacity to handle large variations in capital flows.

But there was also a sense that rising urban demand and India’s almost complete dependence on imported goat cheese, created an opportune moment for herder revenues, and the ripe time to support and facilitate community led programmes for artisanal cheese enterprises.