‪Nowhere to go: Pastoral nomads of Nepali mid-hills

Published On: June 5, 2016 12:46 PM NPT By: Narendra Mainali

Nomadic life in the hills of Nepal is an adaptation to cold environs beyond elevations where agricultural cultivation is possible. For centuries, herders have maintained a sustainable and mobile lifestyle, traveling between designated pastures for each season. They have always moved their cattle regularly to make use of the spatial and temporal inconsistency of grassland resources. Although often regarded as a primitive method, nomadism is, in fact, a highly sophisticated adaptation strategy. It is a unique alternative to the sedentary cultures of agricultural and urban societies.

Studies have shown that the impacts of climate change may be intensified at higher elevations and in regions with complex topography, as is the case in Nepal's mid-hills. Rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are influencing the region's ecosystems and human populations, including the pastoral nomads of this region.

It can take months or years for the effects of climate change, like irregular rainfall pattern, to become evident as water and food shortages. The ecology of the hills of Nepal has suffered due to an increasingly irregular pattern of rainfall. In the mid-hills of Rasuwa and Sindhupalchowk, pastoral nomads are significantly more vulnerable now. Herders in Sindhupalchowk have observed that rainfall has become highly erratic, and aridity and drought have increased rapidly in the past fifteen years. The irregular rainfall pattern and the decline of hill agriculture have forced pastoral nomads to depend on imported food and brought them under the influence of the global market.

The age-old ecological balance is at stake. The livelihoods – and the very survival – of pastoral nomads are under serious threat from flooding, aridity, drought and forest fires. Some have migrated to urban centers, but many cannot leave behind their age-old ecological adaptation. With a rapidly disintegrating way of life, and an uncertain future ahead, they now have nowhere to go.

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