Pastoralism in Transition

Anecdotes from Himachal Pradesh - A Commentary

  • Aniruddh Sheth
  • Vasant Saberwal
Keywords: Gaddi, pastoralism, sedentarization, labor dynamics, transitions


In this essay we focus on what appears to be an evolving transition among Gaddi and other pastoralist communities in Himachal Pradesh, India. Contrary to predictions of the demise of pastoralism, we argue that while there is evidence of sedentarisation among Himachali pastoralists, there is also an emerging trend of households managing smaller herds over a more limited part of the pastoral landscape. We use material from research conducted three decades ago, in combination with ongoing research studying the pastoral economy to understand the drivers of this transition. The essay explores shifts in labour dynamics, where increasingly pastoralist labour prefer cash payments and temporary work opportunities, indicating a reduced commitment to herding. There is an increasing trend of hiring labour from non-traditional herder households, such as Bihari and Nepalese workers, to manage pastoralist herds. Moreover, transitions to smaller herds enables easier management during the winter months when forage availability is limited. Himachali pastoralism remains profitable, but contemporary logics of herd composition, pastoral routes, and market dynamics no longer align with previous models. The essay concludes by pointing to emerging areas of research that might help in better understanding the nature of the ongoing transition in Himachali pastoralism, suggesting that sedentarisation may not be the appropriate term to describe the current trends and that these transitions and their implications must be further assessed before prescribing the eventual demise of pastoralism.

How to Cite
Sheth, A., & Saberwal, V. (2023). Pastoralism in Transition. HIMALAYA - The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies, 42(2), 146-152.