Nomads are people who do not live in one place but move from one area to another to earn their living.
➣ In India, we can see nomadic Pastoralists in many areas moving with their herds of goats and sheep, or camels and cattle.
➣ Pastoralism has been important in societies like India and Africa.
Pastoral Nomads and their Movements in India
(i) In the Mountains
(a) Gujjar Bakarwals
Even today the Gujjar Bakarwals of Jammu and Kashmir are great herders of goat and sheep.
(a) They move annually between their summer and winter grazing grounds.
(b) In winter, when the high mountains are covered with snow they move with their herds to the low hills of the Shiwalik range.
(c) By end of April they begin their northern march for the summer grazing grounds.
(d) Several households of Nomads come together for this journey, forming what is known as a Kafila.
(e) With the onset of summer, the snow melts and the mountains are lush green with nutritious forage.
(f) Again by end of September, the Bakarwals are on the move again, this time on the downward journey back to their winter base.
(g) In this way, the cycle goes on.
In another region, the Gaddi shepherds of Himachal Pradesh have a similar cycle of seasonal movement.
(a) In Garhwal and Kumaon, the Gujjar cattle herders come down to the dry forests of the bhabar in the winter and go up to the high meadows of the bugyals in summer.
(b) This cycle of movement is common to many pastoral communities of the Himalayas like the Bhotiyas, Sherpas and Kinnauris.
(ii) On the Plateaus Plains and Deserts
(a) Dhangars: Dhangars were an important pastoral community of Maharashtra. Not all pastoralists operated in the mountains. They were also found in the plateaus, plains and deserts of India.
(a) The Dhangar shepherds stayed in the central plateau of Maharashtra during the monsoon, when this dry region became a vast grazing ground for Dhangar flocks.
(b) By October the Dhangars harvested the Bajra and started to move West and after a month reached Konkan which had high rainfall and rich soil. Here they were welcomed by the Konkan peasants.
(c) With the onset of monsoon they returned to their settlements on the dry plateau.
(b) Banjaras : The Banjaras were yet another well known group of grazers that were found in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. They travelled over long distances selling plough cattle and other goods to villagers in exchange for grain and fodder.
(a) The Gollas herded cattle in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The Kurumas and Kurubas reared sheep and goats and sold woven blankets.
(b) It was not the cold and snow which defined their seasonal movement; rather it was alternation of the monsoon and dry seasons.
(a) In Rajasthan, because of low and uncertain rainfall, the Raikas combined cultivation with pastoralism.
(b) During monsoon the Raikas of Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner stayed in their home villages where pasture was available.
(c) By October, when these grazing grounds were dry and exhausted, they moved out in search of pasture and water. They returned again in the next monsoon.
(d) One group of Raikas herded camels and another group reared goats and sheeps.
Colonial Rule and Pastoral Life
Under colonial life of pastoralists changed dramatically
(1) Their grazing grounds shrank.
(2) Their movements were regulated and the revenue they had to pay increased.
(3) Their agricultural stock declined.
(4) Their trades and crafts were adversely affected.
The Life of Pastoralists Changed Because
(1) First the colonial state wanted to transform all grazing lands into cultivated farms.
(2) By expanding cultivation the government could increase its revenue collection.
(3) To colonial officials all uncultivated land appeared to be unproductive; it was seen as wasteland as it produced neither revenue nor agricultural produce.
Wasteland Act : This act brought these lands under cultivation.
(1) Second, by mid nineteenth century, Forest Acts were passed in different regions.
(2) Many forests were declared reserves where the pastoralists were not allowed access.
(3) Forest Acts changed the lives of pastoralists, they were prevented from entering forests and could not set forage for their cattle.
(4) Their movements were regulated.
7) Criminal Tribes Act
Third, the British officials were suspicious of nomadic people and they distrusted mobile
craftsmen and traders who sold their goods in villages.
(1) Pastoralists changed their place of residence every season moving in search of good pastures for their herds.
(2) Those who were nomadic were considered criminal.
(3) The British Government passed the Criminal Tribes Act. According to this act, many communities were classified as criminal tribes.
(4) They were expected to live in notified villages and not allowed to leave without a permit.
(5) The village police kept a continuous watch on them.
Taxes Fourth, to expand its revenue income the colonial government looked for every source of taxation. Tax was imposed on canal water, on salt and even on animals.
Pastoralists had to pay tax on every animal they grazed. The tax per head of cattle went up rapidly.
How did These Changes Affect the Lives of Pastoralists?
(1) Colonial policies add to a serious shortage of pastures, when pastures were turned into cultivated fields.
(2) Restrictions were imposed on pastoral movements.
(3) Forest were reserved.
(4) Access to forests was restricted.
(5) Forage for cattle became difficult to find; the cattle were underfed and died.
(6) The pastoralists had to pay tax on every animal they grazed, which became very high.
(7) Many pastoralists and nomads lost their livelihoods.
(8) They could not take forest products.
How did the Pastoralists Cope with the Changes?
(1) Some reduced the number of cattle in their herds since there was not enough pasture to feed large numbers.
(2) Others discovered new pastures when movements to old grazing grounds became difficult.
(3) Some richer pastoralists began buying land, settling down and giving up their nomadic life.
(4) Others took to more extensive trading.
(5) Many poor pastoralists borrowed money from moneylenders to survive.
(6) At times the pastoralists lost their sheep and cattle and became labourers, working on fields or in small town.
(7) They combined pastoral activity with other forms of income and adapted to the changes in the modern world.
Pastoralisms in Africa
(1) Over half the world’s pastoral population lives in Africa.
(2) Even today, over 22 million Africans depend on some form of pastoral activity for their livelihood, like the Maasai, Bedouins, Berbers Somali etc.
(3) They live in rainfed areas where agriculture is difficult, so they raise cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys.
(4) They sell milk, meat, animal skin and wool.
(5) Some earn enough through trade and transport; others combine pastoral activity with agriculture.
(6) Some others do a variety of odd jobs to supplement their meagre and uncertain earnings from pastoralism.
Where have the Maasai Grazing Lands Gone?
(1) One of the problems the Maasais have faced is continuous loss of their grazing lands.
(2) In the late nineteenth century, European imperial powers scrambled for territorial possessions in Africa, slicing up the region into different colonies.
(3) In 1885, Maasailand was cut into half with an international boundary between British Kenya and German Tanganyik.
(4) The best grazing lands were gradually taken over for white settlement and the Maasai were pushed into a small area in South Kenya and North Tanganyika.
(5) The Maasai lost about 60% of their pre-colonial lands.
(6) They were confined to an arid zone with uncertain rainfall and poor pastures.
(7) The British colonial government encouraged cultivation; as cultivation expanded, pasturelands were turned into cultivated fields.
(8) Large areas of pastureland were also turned into game reserves like the Maasai Mara and Samburu National Park in Kenya and Serengeti Park in Tanzania.
(9) Pastoralists were not allowed to enter these reserves they could neither hunt animals nor graze their herds in these areas.
(10) The Serengeti National Park was created over 14760 km of Maasai grazing land.
The Borders are Closed
(1) Pastoral groups were forced to live within the confines of special reserves.
(2) The boundaries of these reserves became the limits within which they could now move.
(3) They were not allowed to move their stock without special permits.
(4) Pastoralists were also not allowed to enter the markets in white areas.
(5) They were not allowed to trade in many areas.
(6) Pastoralists were seen as savage and dangerous with whom contact should be minimised.
(7) These restrictions created several hardships for the pastoralists.
When Pastures Dry Up
(i) Drought affects the life of pastoralists everywhere.
(ii) When rains fail and pastures are dry, cattle are likely to die; that’s why traditionally pastoralists are nomadic. This allows them to survive.
(iii) The Maasai were bound down to a fixed area and prohibited from moving.
(iv) They were forced to live in semi-arid tracts prone to frequent drought. Since they could not shift their cattle to places where pastures were available, large numbers of Maasai cattle died of starvation and disease in these years of drought. Between 1933 and 1934 over half the cattle in Maasai Reserves died.
(v) In Maasailand not all pastoralists were equally affected by the changes in the colonial period.
(vi) In precolonial period Maasai society was divided into two categories; Elders and Warriors.
(a) Elders: The elders formed the ruling group and met in periodic councils to decide the affairs of the community and settle disputes.
(b) Warriors: The warriors consisted of younger people, mainly responsible for protection of the tribes. They defended the community and organised cattle raids.Raiding was important in a society where cattle were wealth.
(vii) The British imposed various restrictions on raiding warfare.Thus, the traditional authority of both Elders and Warriors was negatively affected.
(viii) The chiefs appointed by the colonial government accumulated wealth overtime. They had regular income with which they could buy animals and goods.
(ix) These chiefs managed to survive the devastations of war and drought. They had both pastoral and non pastoral activity.
(x) The social changes in Maasai society occurred at two levels.
(xi) First, the traditional difference based on age between the Elders and Warriors was disturbed, though it did not break down.
(xii) Second, a new distinction between wealthy and poor pastoralists developed.