The lost shepherds of Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh | The Gaddi tribe
Climate change is making it difficult for the Gaddi shephard tribe preserve its traditional livelihood
As winter is approaching with the fear of an early snowfall in the high altitude regions of Kinnaur, such shepherds can be seen on the highways migrating to warmer places with their flock.
They migrate to find better pastures and food for their flock to graze on. In summers, it is the reverse, when they guide their flock back uphill. This routine is followed by many such herders and it is all dependent on the climate.
But that is changing! This change is not only disturbing their routine but also affecting the health of their livestock (sheeps and goats). The shepherds’ tribe, the Gaddis of Himachal Pradesh, is one of the first groups of people being affected by climate change and is struggling to preserve its traditional livelihood.
Himachal Pradesh has a considerable sheep population that produces over 3 million kilograms of wool, 8.27 per cent of the country’s wool production. As many as 37 per cent of the agrarian population is involved in some or the other form of sheep rearing but their survival is in doubt.
The Gaddis is a semi-nomadic community that travel with their herd and plod along difficult terrains in search of appropriate climate and grazing pastures. We traveled to Sangla and met Ashok Kumar, a professional trekker and guide but also a Gaddi putra. He comes across many Gaddis while on treks and is up to date with their movement patterns. Global warming is already affecting the state in multiple ways.
Erratic rainfall, shifts in snowline and extreme weather events are shifting the ecology upwards while affecting the quality and availability of grasslands. Livestock has become more prone to pests and diseases, affecting the quality of wool the shepherds produce. As a result, many have stopped rearing sheep and are focussing on other sources of income.
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