New Article to the Bibliography


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Title: Pastoral practices, pressures, Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice Open Access and human-wildlife relations in high altitude rangelands of eastern Himalaya: A case study of the Dokpa pastoralists of North Sikkim

Author: Luxom, N. M., Singh, R., Theengh, L., Shrestha, P., Sharma, R. K.

Abstract: The pastoral practices of the Dokpa herders of North Sikkim have been transforming in response to the geo-political and socio-economic changes in the region. Against the backdrop of these changes, this study aims to understand the current state of pastoralism in North Sikkim with three specific objectives: (i) to understand the current rangeland management practices of the Dokpa community; (ii) to examine the social, political and ecological stresses to continuity of traditional pastoral livelihoods; and (iii) to document the baseline on human-wildlife relations. We focused on one of the two subset populations of Dokpa herders of North Sikkim and, using a mixed-methods approach, conducted 12 semi-structured interviews, four key respondent interviews and two focused group discussions. The resource use by the Dokpas is unique, and unlike the rest of the Himalayan range, they access the high-altitude pastures in winters and the lower ones in summer. Pastures in the higher altitudes experience heavier winds, which leads to lower levels of snow deposition — thus ensuring access to dried pasture forage for livestock during the lean season. The decisions pertaining to resource management are taken by the head of the local institution Dzumsa, the Pipon. Primary stresses to the continuation of traditional pastoral practices are fragmentation of pastureland post- Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the consequent establishment of armed forces, livestock depredation by free-ranging dogs followed by wild predators and continued socio-economic marginalisation of the pastoralists under a supposedly egalitarian institutional regime. Extreme climatic events in the recent past have also contributed to significant livestock loss. Dokpa transhumant practices are on an overall decline, with most members of the younger generation shifting to non-herding livelihoods. The availability of alternate livelihood options with the improved connectivity, access to education and development of the tourism industry has led to changing aspirations of the younger generations. In only two of the twelve households we surveyed, the younger generation continues herding, while the rest have moved to the cities and towns. In terms of human-wildlife relations, the respondents mostly hold a positive attitude towards wildlife and conservation actions despite livestock predation by wild predators, since the free-ranging dogs cause the highest livestock loss. With the inputs from the Dokpas, we provide recommendations towards a facilitative environment for the continuation of the traditional herding in the region, which is critical for the survival of pastoralism in North Sikkim, presently hinged on less than two dozen of elderly Dokpas.


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