United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on pastoralists in India

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on pastoralists in India


Recently, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) released a report that highlights the challenges faced by pastoralists in India, particularly in terms of their rights and market access.

  • It also sheds light on the importance of rangelands and the economic contributions of pastoralist communities.

GS-03 (Economy, Growth)

Pastoralist communities

  • These are groups of people who rely on raising livestock as their primary source of livelihood.
  • They often practice a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, moving their herds seasonally to access fresh pastures and water sources.
  • Livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and yaks are central to pastoralists’ economies.

Examples of Pastoralist Communities:

  1. Africa:
  • Maasai: Predominantly found in Kenya and Tanzania, known for their cattle herding.
  • Samburu: Another Kenyan group closely related to the Maasai, also known for cattle herding.
  • Fulani: Spread across West Africa, including countries like Nigeria, Mali, and Niger, known for their extensive cattle herding.
  1. Asia:
  • Mongolian Nomads: In Mongolia, known for herding yaks, horses, sheep, goats, and camels.
  • Bakhtiari: Found in Iran, known for their seasonal migrations with livestock.
  1. Europe:
  • Sami: Indigenous people of northern Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland) and Russia, traditionally herding reindeer.
  1. India:
  • Gujjars: Primarily found in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand, involved in cattle and buffalo herding.
  • Bakarwals: A nomadic pastoralist community in Jammu and Kashmir, known for goat and sheep herding.
  • Raikas/Rebaris: Found in Rajasthan and Gujarat, known for herding camels, sheep, and goats.
  • Kurubas: Found in Karnataka and other southern states, involved in sheep and goat herding.
  • Maldharis: Semi-nomadic pastoralists found in Gujarat, herding cattle, sheep, goats, and camels.

Key Findings from the UNCCD Report

Global Extent of Rangelands:

  • Rangelands span 80 million square kilometers, making up 54% of the Earth’s surface.
  • 78% of these rangelands are located in drylands, with only 12% designated as protected areas.

Degradation of Rangelands:

  • Around 40-45% of global rangelands are degraded, posing a threat to significant portions of the world’s food supply and carbon storage.
  • Degradation is driven by climate change, population growth, and changes in land use.

Rangelands’ Contribution to Food Production:

  • Rangelands account for 16% of global food production.
  • They provide 70% of the feed for domesticated herbivores, particularly in regions like Africa and South America.

Rangelands in India:

  • India’s rangelands cover approximately 1.21 million square kilometers.
  • There has been a substantial reduction in grassland areas, from 18 million hectares to 12 million hectares between 2005 and 2015.

Global State of Pastoralists:

  • There are 500 million pastoralists worldwide, with 13 million in India across diverse groups.
  • Pastoralists in India significantly contribute to livestock production and the national economy.

Economic Contributions of Pastoralists in India:

  • India holds 20% of the global livestock population.
  • Pastoralists play a key role in milk and meat production, contributing 4% to the national GDP and 26% to the agricultural GDP.

Legal Support and Success Stories:

  • Legislation like the Forest Rights Act of 2006 has enabled pastoralists to secure grazing rights.
  • The Van Gujjars’ success in obtaining grazing rights and land titles in Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand, highlights the impact of legal support.

India’s Leading Role in Dairy and Meat Production:

  • India is the world’s largest milk producer, contributing 23% of global dairy production.
  • It is also a leading producer and exporter of buffalo meat, as well as sheep and goat meat.

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)?

  • The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international treaty established in 1994, focused on sustainable land management and combating desertification.
  • The UNCCD specifically addresses the arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas known as drylands, which host some of the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems and communities.
  • With 197 parties, the convention aims to improve living conditions in drylands, restore land and soil productivity, and mitigate drought effects.
  • The UNCCD works alongside the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to tackle interconnected issues of land, climate, and biodiversity.

Way Forward

  • Strengthen policies and laws to better recognize and protect the rights of pastoralists, ensuring they have access to necessary resources and markets.
  • Implement sustainable land management practices to prevent further degradation of rangelands and promote their restoration.
  • Provide support through education, healthcare, and economic opportunities to empower pastoralist communities and improve their livelihoods.
  • Ensure strict implementation of existing laws like the Forest Rights Act to secure grazing rights and land titles for pastoralists.
  • Invest in research to develop innovative solutions for sustainable rangeland management and support pastoralist systems.
  • Foster global cooperation to share knowledge, resources, and best practices in combating desertification and supporting pastoralist communities.