AimTrans-Himalayan rangelands have a pastoral history dating back several millennia. The long term sustainability of pastoralism and the effect of livestock grazing on rangelands have been fiercely debated in literature. This study attempted 1) to understand the traditional community management of rangelands in backdrop of a changing socio-economic scenario and 2) to understand the linkages between pastoralism, agriculture and socio-economic changes.
MethodsVillages of Spiti region of Himachal Pradesh viz. Kibber, Kee, Gete, Tashigang & Chicham were studied to understand the traditional management of pastures. Participant observation, semi-structured interviews, resource mapping and history mapping were used to get the qualitative date on the resource use, role of institutions and the changes in agro-pastoral system. For quantitative data on agriculture and livestock holdings was taken from many government offices
ResultsInter and intra-village management of pastures is governed by traditional and institutional mechanisms. Locals have intimate knowledge of the fodder requirement of livestock species which matches the findings of scientific studies. Advent of green pea in place of traditional barley has transformed the self-subsistence economy to a cash crop based market economy, in turn affecting old traditional practices and livestock composition.
ConservationA better understanding of the traditional pasture management system and knowledge will be useful for designing any rangeland conservation plan that avoids conflicts with local communities while making use of their traditional ecological knowledge. Our study documented an overall decline in livestock numbers which has implications for rangeland quality, wild prey populations and hence the native carnivores like Tibetan wolf and snow leopard.