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Plantations and pastoralists: afforestation activities make pastoralists in the Indian Himalaya vulnerable

Vijay Ramprasad, Centre for Ecology, Development and Research (CEDAR); Kangra Integrated Sciences and Adaptation Network (KISAN)
Abha Joglekar, Kangra Integrated Sciences and Adaptation Network (KISAN)
Forrest Fleischman, University of Minnesota


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Global policies to mitigate climate change and protect forests are increasingly incentivizing the large-scale planting of trees. Yet tree planting poses a potential threat to the well-being of migratory pastoralists who depend on fodder across landscapes. With this research we seek to understand the impact of decades of afforestation activities in Himachal Pradesh, India, on the livelihoods of Gaddi pastoralists who have herded sheep and goats in the Himalayas for generations. Based on interviews with Gaddi herders, community leaders, and government officials, and case studies in three villages with large Gaddi populations in Kangra district, we find that plantations increase vulnerability. We show that plantations have decreased the availability of fodder, contributed to increased incidence of invasive species, disrupted migratory routes, and changed access to land. We develop a generalizable integrated vulnerability framework that focuses on pastoral livelihoods, and helps make a distinction between the vulnerability of livelihood activities and the vulnerability of individual people. Our framework anchors the causal pathway from plantation activity to livelihood vulnerability and the push toward more secure, but nonpastoral livelihoods. Plantation-driven challenges add to pre-existing stressors and accelerate declines in the number of pastoral households and size of migratory herds. However, many Gaddi households remain prosperous because they are able to diversify into alternative livelihoods. We underline the fact that the ability to adapt to alternative livelihoods and income streams differentiates vulnerable Gaddi herders from those who are not. In addition to increasing forest cover, plantations have an opportunity to serve a larger purpose of increasing resilience of vulnerable livelihoods; but they must be designed differently than they have been in the past in order to achieve this goal. They present an easier solution to sustain pastoralism compared to other important, but recalcitrant drivers of livelihood change.

Key words

access; afforestation; institutions; resilience; transhumance

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087