Plantations and pastoralists: livelihood impacts of afforestation activities on Gaddis of the lower Himalaya

Authors: Vijay Ramprasad*, University of Minnesota, Abha Joglekar, Azim Premji University, Forrest Fleischman, University of Minnesota
Topics: Asia
Keywords: India, transhumance, institutions, vulnerability, resilience
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Senate Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper unpacks conditions that make the Gaddi pastoralists of the lower Himalayas resilient to multiple social, ecological and economic shocks. In doing so, we highlight their current vulnerabilities, especially those related to afforestation activities that are ostensibly designed to increase land cover and overall resilience of mountain ecosystems. Focusing on the overlaps of transhumance and afforestation activities in the overlapping space of plantations in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, India, this research seeks answers to the question: What are the impacts of afforestation activities on pastoral livelihoods? Based on interviews with Gaddi community members, institutions such as Gaddi Union, Wool Federation, Panchayati Raj Institution members and Forest Department officials, and with the help of satellite imagery and mapping of migratory routes, this study demonstrates that plantations are affecting migratory routes and changing fodder availability, present livelihood challenges due to current forest management practices and may contribute to conflicts with Forest Department officials and communities. Our analysis shows that afforestation activities do not actively address fodder needs of Gaddis but instead offer barriers to pastoral livelihoods by reducing areas available for grazing and by contributing to changing vegetation composition of the forest-plantation-agriculture matrix. We find that even though Gaddis are vulnerable to multiple stressors in addition to afforestation activities such as livestock theft, increased market competition and unrequited price for highly-valued meat, their resilience stems from the ability to respond to changes by diversifying their livelihood portfolio and mobilizing political power for better representation in democratic process.

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