Abstract and Keywords
Pastoralists depend for their livelihood on raising livestock on natural pasture. Livestock may be selected for meat, milk, wool, traction, carriage, or riding, or a combination. Pastoralists rarely rely solely on their livestock; they may also engage in hunting, fishing, cultivation, commerce, predatory raiding, and extortion. Some pastoral peoples are nomadic and others are sedentary, while yet others are partially mobile. Economically, some pastoralists are subsistence oriented, others are market oriented, and others combining the two. Politically, some pastoralists are independent or quasi-independent tribes, others, largely under the control of states, are peasants, while yet others are citizens engaged in commercial production in a modern state.
All pastoralists have to address a common set of issues: gaining and taking possession of livestock, including good breeding stock. Ownership of livestock may consist of individual, group, or distributed rights, managing the livestock through husbandry and herding. Husbandry is selecting animals for breeding and maintenance. Herding is ensuring that the livestock gains access to adequate pasture and water. Pasture access can be gained through territorial ownership and control, purchase, rent, and patronage. Security must be provided for the livestock through active human oversight or restriction by means of fences or other barriers. Manpower is provided by kin relations, exchange of labor, barter, monetary payment, or some combination of these.
Prominent pastoral peoples are sheep, goat, and camel herders in the arid band running from North Africa through the Middle East and northwest India, the cattle and small stock herders of Africa south of the Sahara, reindeer herders of the sub-Arctic northern Eurasia, the camelid herders of the Andes, and the ranchers of North and South America.
A Case of Middle Eastern Pastoralists
In the 1960s and 1970s, the Shah Navazi Baluch (Salzman 2000), with a population of some 5,000 people, was one of the larger tribes in the highland Sarhad region of Iranian Baluchistan. The mainstay of their production was raising goats (Baluchi: sah pas, black small stock), sheep (sepid pas, white small stock), and camels (hushtair). They held a two to one ratio of goats to sheep. The primary product they drew from these small stock was milk, a main staple of their diet and their main source of protein. Goats provided a larger amount of milk than sheep and were believed to do better in the rocky arid environment. Camels, occasionally milked, were raised mainly for carrying baggage, but were also used for riding. Goats also provided goat hair, which was woven into wide panels for tent roofs. Sheep and camel wool were spun and woven into rugs and bags for luggage and other daily uses. Small stock skins were prepared and used for water bags, milk containers, and date containers.
The diet of these Baluch consisted of three main staples: milk from their livestock, bread, and dates. Their main dish was called hatuk and consisted of bread in a liquid. The most common version was shiri hatuk, that is, bread soaked in milk, usually with a bit of oil and sometimes with onions or hot peppers for flavor. For guests and religious festivals, goosti hatuk, bread soaked in gravy with meat on the side, was served. In extremis, such as famines, abi hatuk, bread soaked in water, perhaps with hot peppers, was the fallback.
Livestock was rarely slaughtered, usually for Sunni Muslim religious festivals. The husbandry of the herds focused on conserving the females of reproductive age. Most males and females past reproduction were available for slaughter or exchange. Small stock was classified according to sex and age, and camels were classified according to build, sex, and age (Salzman 2000, table 4.5). For example, adult male goats were called pachenu, while adult females were called gitaj; adult male sheep were called gwarant and adult females were called plat. Heavy burden camels were called bari, good riding camels mahri dashti, and fine riding camels mahri rud bari. A two-year-old male camel was called pourap, a female kowant (Salzman 2000, table 4.6).
Small stock (pas) herds, held as property by nuclear families, ranged from a few animals up to fifty or sixty. These small family herds were herded together by a hired shepherd, commonly a member of the herding camp and a livestock owner. In fact, the nomadic residential community, the herding camp, was constituted specifically through a one-year contract (karar) between family herd owners (wasildar, property owners) and a shepherd (schwaneg). This contractual principle contrasted with the principle of descent which defined the tribe (rend, or line) and all of the subsection lineages (also rend, except for the face-to-face community of from 100 to 150 people, called brasrend, or brother line).
Camels were managed differently. Once the herding camp was constituted by its contract with a shepherd, individual families collaborated with several others to form small herds (bak) of around ten camels, which would be supervised by one of the boys of the group, usually between eight and twelve years of age, who served as camel herder (bakjat). Unlike the herd or flock (ramag) of small stock, the camels were not observed continually but were allowed to roam on their own part of the time.
Livestock were not seen as interchangeable animals but were known individually, each having a name, and were cared for as the valuable resource each was. Animals were protected from extreme weather, particularly in winter when the temperature on this high plateau (5,500 feet, or 1,675 meters altitude) fell below freezing at night. In winter, each tent was separated into two sections, divided by a web of rope woven from wild palm frond leaves. The small stock was herded into the tent as night arrived and slept crammed together in a mass of mutually heating animals. Lambs and kids were housed together inside on the people side of the tent, in small mud huts. Camels, settled next to the tents, were given ragged coats of whatever material was available.
Although by far most nutrition for the animals came from natural pasture, uncultivated or unimproved grass and bushes, the tribesmen did not hesitate to supplement this diet with animal feed when necessary. For example, during the winter when mother’s milk was limited, newborn lambs and kids were fed date pits that had been broken into small pieces and softened in water. Pregnant animals were carefully tended. In drought conditions, pregnant camels were fed plant roots dug up by the tribesmen. Even dates, and important part of people’s diet the year--round, were sometimes, if deemed necessary, fed to animals.
A few dogs were kept to protect the herds. They were not herding dogs but lived with the small stock and would surge out to challenge any predatory animals, such as wolves, that approach the flock. The dogs were fed primarily stale bread.
In considering migration from one site in the tribal territory to another, a primary factor was the welfare of the livestock. One motive for migrating was to improve access to good pasture and water. Complicating such decisions was the preference of each species for a different kind of growth. Sheep are grazers, while goats and camels are browsers, so while one potential destination might be attractive for sheep, it might not be good for goats and camels, or vice versa. Or the pasture might be good, but water was not readily available. Another consideration was avoiding disease, should it have broken out in another flock or herd. Avoiding enemies was also an important factor in choosing a new site.
Pastoral migrations among the Shah Nawazi were microenvironmental, responding to the variations in pasture growth across the landscape. These environmental variations were irregular and unpredictable. The tribesmen never knew very much ahead of time what might be the best destinations. Migrations were often only for a few miles but could be for several score or more miles. The migration pattern of a particular year would usually be quite different from that of the previous and following year. The only long migration of the Shah Nawazi was between the highland pastoral plateau and their lowland date groves, but this was not a pastoral migration because the small stock was left on the plateau in the care of shepherds.
The Shah Nawazi erratic microenvironmental migrations are similar to some other desert pastoralists, such as the Somali of the Horn of Africa (Lewis 1961) and the Rwala Bedouin of northern Arabia (Lancaster 1997). The Shah Nawazi erratic microenvironmental migrations contrast with the macroenvironmental migrations of the western Iranian Zagros Mountain pastoral tribes, such as the Bakhtiari, Qashqai, and Basseri (Barth 1986; Beck 1991). These mountain nomads migrated regularly, moving from winter lowlands to summer highlands, taking advantage of seasonal changes at different altitudes to find the best conditions for their livestock. Iranian peasant pastoralists, groups with no pretensions of political power or independence, such as the Komachi of Kerman Province (Bradburd 1990), also had a macroenvironmental mountain adaptation, shifting between summer highlands and winter lowlands, gaining access to pasture through the gift of settled patrons. The Bedouin of Cyrenaica responded to macroenvironmental factors, moving south to dryer regions during the rainy winter and north to somewhat more humid regions during the dry summer season, but also to microenvironment factors, searching for pasture and water wherever it could be found (Evans-Pritchard 1949).
Lineages (rend), defined by descent through the male line, were charged with defense of their members, their livestock, and their man-made water sources, and also with the welfare of their members. The membership of lineages did not change. Women married to members of other lineages retained their own lineage membership. This rigidity was important for social stability and social control.
Rigidity is a disadvantage in a herding group that must adapt to changing environmental conditions. The contract-based camping group could expand or contract on an annual basis, depending upon environment conditions. For example, in a good year in which pasture was relatively rich, a herd of small stock could be expanded to upward of three hundred animals, efficiently herded by the hired shepherd with the part-time help of stock owners; but in a poor drought year, the pasture would not sustain such a large dense herd, and with poor pasture, the animals would wander, making only small herds sustainable. Each annual contact took into account the environmental conditions and consequently increased or decreased the number of stock owners and their livestock included in the contract.
The use of a rigid descent framework to ensure social control and of a flexible contract system to facilitate adaptation to ever-changing environmental conditions illustrates the way in which different organizational principles are put to work to serve different purposes in individual pastoral societies as well as in societies of other types.
The Shah Nawazi, previously called the Yarahmadzai or descendants of Yarahmad until their conquest by Reza Shah, the king of Iran, in 1935, continued to hold and control a territory at 5,500 feet altitude to the east of Washt (Persian: Khash), through the Morpish Mountains, down into the lowland Hamuni Maskel drainage basis at 1,500 feet altitude. Their territory covered some 7,800 square miles (20,000 sq. km).
Within the territory, natural (uncultivated) pasture and natural (but not man-made) water sources were open to all tribesmen, being regarded as gifts from God (abi huda, water from God). This available territory was critical for pastoralism in an arid land where sparse and erratic rainfall, from one to ten inches annually, comes mainly in the winter. Grass and bushes grow at any period, depending on where rain happens to fall, and that changes from rainfall to rainfall and from year to year. In order to migrate with their livestock from one area to another in search of pasture, the tribesmen depended upon tribal control of territory and open pasture policy. Outsiders from other tribes had to seek permission from the tribal chief (sardar) in order to be admitted.
Although pastoralism was the economic mainstay of the Shah Navazi, they also engaged in other forms of production: grain cultivation, hunting and gathering, date cultivation, and predatory raiding, the latter replaced after the Iranian conquest by migrant labor, trading, and smuggling. EGrain cultivation was carried out on the plateau in a catch-as-catch-can fashion by building a simple barrier (gwarband) at the bottom of a rainfall runoff channel, usually at the bottom of hills, and sowing the grain seeds in hope that rain would feed the small encircled area and a crop would grow with no further intervention.
Various wild plants and animals were drawn upon in modest amounts (e.g., wild onions (pimazi kuh, mountain onions, and quail trapped with nets). Wild palm fronds were collected for the weaving of mats for tent sides and flooring.
Off the plateau, on the other side of the mountains, the Shah Nawazi cultivated date palms in groves where they maintained simple huts made of palm fronds or mud bricks. By the late 1960s, when my fieldwork began, the groves were substantial, and the amount of dates produced was large enough for families to have a supply sufficient for an entire year, as long as the dates were packed correctly.
Prior to 1935, the Yarahmadzai were notorious for predatory raiding of Persian villages in southern Kerman Province, for raiding caravans traveling between Iran and India, and for raiding herds outside of Baluchistan. The Yarahmadzai captured Persian villagers, some of whom they enslaved to carry out cultivation, some of whom they sold on, and some they married, thus avoiding paying bride price. They also captured livestock, stores of grain, carpets, and any other valuables they could find. Riding and baggage camels proved valuable assets in this endeavor, which was carried out annually by a tribe-wide raiding party and occasionally at other times by ambitious individuals and small kin groups. After 1935, raiding was suppressed by the Iranian military, and the Baluch sought other sources of income in migrant labor, trading, and smuggling. At the end of the 1960s, many Shah Nawazi men traveled to Abu Dhabi to sell their labor and bring their gains back to Baluchistan. In the 1970s, many men switched to trading, carrying goods from Pakistan to Iran. By the 1980s, after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, the Shah Nawazi were engaged in wholesale smuggling of drugs from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Iran.
The opportunistic grain cultivation and hunting and gathering, as well as predatory raiding, were all compatible with pastoralism because they did not inhibit herding or displacement through migration within the tribal territory; so too with date cultivation, which only required attention during a short pollination season in the spring and a longer harvest and packing season in the summer, during which the herds remained on the plateau with their hired shepherds. The Hamuni Mashkil, being a drainage basin, had a very high water table, a few feet below the surface, so the date palms could sink their roots into the water table and draw the water they needed without any irrigation by the tribesmen. The tribesmen were then free to live for the rest of the year on the distant plateau and tend to their livestock.
Although livestock was owned by nuclear families, labor was in various contexts cooperative (Salzman 1988, 233–258). Close kin formed a kind of “labor cooperative” in which individuals contributed their labor without compensation. There were many examples of different situations in which people cooperated: in some cases, many individuals worked for one family. If one of someone’s camels went missing, many male members of the herding camp would participate in the search. In other cases, one or a few individuals worked for a number of others. When date palm pollination season arrived and a long trek over the mountains to the lowland drainage basin was required, it was common for one or two men to go to the groves on behalf of a half dozen others beside themselves to pollinate the palms of the others. Another example was the milling of grain once motorized mills were established in tribal territory. A couple of men would load the grain of a half dozen families on camels to carry to the mill. On other occasions, others would do the same. This was often done among close relatives without compensation, on the basis of generalized reciprocity, the understanding that others would contribute their labor on later occasions. When a wider network of workers was called on, direct compensation was usually the rule, often with some portion of the dates or flour.
Given the small number of livestock per capita or per nuclear family and the uses to which the livestock was put, it is clear that Shah Nawazi pastoralism was subsistence oriented, with most animal products consumed by the producers. This is not to say that there was no market engagement at all. On the contrary, a few livestock were traded or sold and, rarely, dates were sold or traded. Hunting and gathering and grain and date production were similarly subsistence oriented. Predatory raiding provided additional income for the tribal subsistence economy, except for captives who were sold as slaves. Migrant labor, trading, and smuggling, although engagements with labor and product markets, were directed toward bolstering the tribal subsistence economy through the inflow of cash. There was always a shortfall in grain for flour to make bread, a daily staple, and this had to be made up through barter or purchase. Cloth, tea, and sugar, never purchased prior to 1950, became common purchases thereafter. As the cash flow moderately increased in the 1970s, a few tribesmen were able to buy vehicles, first Pakistani bicycles, then Russian motorcycles, with the only truck owned by the tribal chief.
As an update, note that prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Baluchistan, the remote desert region on the border of Sunni Pakistan, was a tribal area based economically on subsistence pastoralism and cultivation and religiously in Sunni Islam. There was immediate resistance, with the Sunni Baluch successfully fighting the Sistani Shia for control of the capital, Zahedan. The new Shia state decided that something had to be done about Baluchistan. The government adopted the Chinese model of flooding minority areas with recruits from the majority Shia Persian population. The government’s ingenious plan was to build, in a land that hardly had primary schools, a series of large universities in Baluchistan and to recruit Shia Persian students, professors, and staff from other regions through offering large fellowships and high salaries. The successful result was rapid urbanization. Zahedan, which could not have housed more than ten thousand people at the time of the Islamic Revolution, by 1991 was a city of 361,623; five years later it was at 419,518; ten years later, in 2006, it had expanded to 567,449! Over a half million in Zahedan! The growth of the small district capitals was no less remarkable: Khash, only a few thousand at best in 1979, was by 1991 27,420; in 1996, 38,924; in 2006, 57,811. Similarly, in Saravan, the population grew from a few thousand to 33,325 in 1991; 41,177 in 1996; and 59,610 in 2006. The University of Sistan and Baluchistan rapidly grew to 20,300 students, making it the second largest university in Iran after the University of Tehran. Universities were also built in Zabol, Chabahar, and Iranshahr. Dusty Baluch villages became urban university centers.
The Baluch became politically and culturally subordinate in their home province. Their modest pastoral livelihood came to be seen as a backward choice. Many new economic employment opportunities opened for Baluch in construction and services. Baluch became prominent in transportation as well. Higher administrative and economic positions went to Shia Persians. Drug smuggling from Afghanistani and Pakistani Baluchistan became a near universal sideline in most Baluchi families. Pastoralism has become more of a heritage occupation than a dominant way of life.
There are many features of the Shah Nawazi economy and pastoralism found among other pastoral peoples:
The raising of multiple species is widespread. Sheep and goats are often raised together, partly because goats lead sheep flocks and keep the sheep from wandering. Almost all pastoralists who raise small stock keep both sheep and goats. This is true throughout Iran, the Middle East generally, and in Africa. Breeders who specialize in large stock, cattle or camels, commonly keep small stock as well. There is a good strategic reason for this; small stock reproduce in multiples twice a year, whereas large stock produce singles once a year or longer. This means that in any serious loss of livestock, whether through environmental conditions or raiding, the road to recovery is through fast multiplying small stock, which eventually can be traded to replace large stock.
Most pastoralists engage in multiple forms of production. The Yomut Turkmen of northeastern Iran, around 925 miles (1,490 km) due north of the Shah Nawazi, had an agricultural sector in the more humid, southern part of their territory and a pastoral sector in the arid northern section (Irons 1975). The agriculturalists held some livestock and many built their herds and switched into the pastoral sector in the north. Both the pastoralists and agriculturalists, who as well as the pastoralists lived in mobile yurts, engaged in other forms of production, such as the weaving of Turkmen carpets for sale. They also engaged in protection racket extortion of the close Persian villages to the south. More distant Persian villages in Khorosan, as well as commercial caravans traveling between Tehran and Meshad, were subject to predatory raiding, with Persians carried off to be sold in the not too distant slave markets of Central Asia. The Rwala Bedouin of Arabia too engaged in protection racket extortion with settled communities, and raiding for camels (Lancaster 1997). The Komachi, peasant pastoralists, were market oriented, raising sheep to supply wool to the carpet industry in Kerman (Bradburd 1990). The Libyan Bedouin of Cyrenaica (Evans-Pritchard 1940), East African pastoralists, such as the Turkana, Pokot, Karimojong (McCabe 2004), and the Nuer of southern Sudan (Evans-Pritchard 1940), often engaged in cattle raiding. According to J. Terrance McCabe, “Among the Turkana, it is difficult to [over-]estimate the degree to which raiding and violence influence people’s lives. At any time a herd owner could lose all his livestock, and members of his family could be injured or killed” (McCabe 2004).
In each pastoral society, several contrasting organizational principles have been used to serve different needs. For example, among the Baluch, patrilineal descent was used to establish ongoing defense groups and tribal unity. Limited term contract was used to organize herding camps. Generalized reciprocity was the basis of labor groups. Among East African pastoralists, age grades were the basis of authority and activity, while descent was the basis of local unity and solidarity.
Some 700 miles (1,126 km) to the east of Iranian Baluchistan is Rajasthan, India, home of the Reika pastoralists, generally referred to in India as “sheep breeders” (Salzman 1986, 128–138). The Reika are a “clean caste” of the Varna hierarchy that exists among caste groups in South Asia. Small groups of Reika have homes in Rajasthani villages and have the right to use uncultivated “wasteland” to pasture their animals, as well as the right to use village water sources. Some own small parcels of land, and livestock is usually welcomed on harvested fields for the enrichment of the droppings. Nor are the Reika unique as pastoralists in Rajasthan. Some members of other castes, such as Rajputs, Jats, Bishnoi, and Sindi Muslims, also engage in pastoralism.
In the Rajasthani village of Gongani in Jodhpur District, the pastoral specialists comprised less than fifty families in a total population of six hundred families (Salzman 1986, 129). In the Kaparada village of Jodhpur District, there were twenty families of pastoral specialists out of a total of five hundred forty families. In Magera-Kalan, thirty of 395 families were pastoral specialists. The same pattern was seen in the Upper Luni Basin, including five districts in western Rajasthan, where 4 percent of the households, with 8 percent of workers, were engaged in livestock production as their primary occupation. But half of all households engaged in some livestock rearing. The specialist pastoral castes, the Reika and Sindi Muslims, made up around 5 percent of the villagers but owned some 50 percent of the livestock. In the desertic Upper Luni Basin, the pastoralists were 8 percent of the population, but owned 47 percent of the livestock, a household average of eighty-seven animals (Salzman 1986, 130).
Living as a group within a caste hierarchy and under the authority of the Indian state, the Reika can be considered “peasant pastoralists” (Salzman 2004, chap. 5). They claimed that historically they served as herders for the Maharajah of Rajasthan. No claim was made that they ever had any degree of political independence. Furthermore, they did not control a large territory, although they had access to some parts of territory associated with the villages where they lived. In these respects, they contrast with the tribal Shah Nawazi and other tribal pastoralists previously described.
Rajasthan is India’s desert province, an eastern extension of the desert that Iranian Baluchistan, far to the west, shares.
The most parts of South West Rajasthan are part of Thar Desert. This region has lowest annual normal rainfall in the country its geographical location is such that this region is mostly dependent upon rain water. The period of monsoon over this region is shortest (two months) in the whole country.
(Singh et al. 1997)
In an average year, almost no rain falls in winter (8 mm = 0.31 inches), and not much more in the summer (18 mm =0.7 inches). Almost all rain falls during the monsoons, July and August (281 mm = 11 inches), with little following (7 mm = 0.28 inches) (Singh et al. 1997, fig. 126.96.36.199). But these averages do not tell what happens in particular years because there is great year to year variation. From year to year, there is a 38 percent variability (Singh et al. 1997, 22). Thus there can be significantly less rain, or more rain, in any given year. Temperatures range (e.g., in Barmer) from 10ºC to 26ºC in winter and from 24ºC to 42ºC in summer (Singh et al. 1997, fig. 2.1).
A pastoralist’s practical priority is to care for his animals and to provide them with the best conditions available. Best conditions means mild temperatures and good pasture and water, and avoiding extremes of heat and drought. Thar Desert pastoralists cannot do this year-round in their home villages. The rainfall that provides good pasture and drinking water comes only in four months: June, July, August, and September. During the other eight months, drought conditions obtain, with very poor pasture and no water. As a consequence, a common pattern is for Thar pastoralists to band together and migrate away to more humid regions.
The pastoralists’ migratory groups consist largely of adult males. Most women, children, and elders remain in home villages. Only a few adult women accompany the migration in order to cook for the men. This split of families contrasts with tribal pastoralists, such as the Shah Nawazi and Rwala Bedouin (Lancaster 1997), and some peasant pastoral groups, such as the Komachi in Kerman (Bradburd 1990), Iran, and the Yoruk (Bates 1973) of southeastern Turkey, among whom all members of the family always migrate together. Another pattern of manpower mobility for pastoralism that differs from both the Rajasthani and Middle Eastern pastoralists is found among East African pastoralists. Tribes such as the Maasai are organized according to age groups, and herding duties fall to the age group of young men, designated “warriors,” who live with most livestock out in herding camps and move with animals as necessary (Spear and Waller 1993; Spencer 1965). The elders, women, and children remain in the central settlement.
Years differ, sometimes dramatically, in the amount of rainfall. If there is unusually heavy rainfall and thus good pasture and available drinking water, pastoralists will remain the year round in their home villages. But if rainfall is meager, pastoralists who are away will not return in June, but will continue on their migratory loop. In the Luni Basin during the twenty-two years between 1958 and 1980, during twelve years there was drought-induced migration and, in one year, flood-induced migration in comparison to nine non-migration years (Salzman 1986, 131).
Where Thar pastoralists migrate to depends in part on their home location and the closest and most convenient moister destination region (Salzman 1986, 131–132). The Sindi-Muslims of Bhap in northern Jodhpur District migrate north to the Punjab, trucking their sheep and goats (Chatty 1986). The Reika of Barmer District in the southwest herd their sheep and goats south to northern Gujarat or, if necessary, farther south in Gujurat, southeast to Madhya Pradesh, or even to Maharastra. The cattle herders of Barmer aim for southern Gujarat. The Reika of Gongani in Jodhpur District herd their sheep and goats east, via Jaipur, into Uttar Pradesh, to the Yamuna River. The Reika of Kaparada, Jodhpur District, head east on a more southerly route through Kota, into Uttar Pradesh to Kanpur and the Ganga River, follow the river north through Agra, and then swing back west through Jaipur. The long-distance migrations are the cost to Thar pastoralists of supporting the well-being of their animals. The exception are the camel-herding pastoralists, such as the Reika in Mager-Kalan or the Bishnoi camel herders of Dalana, whose animals are hardier in arid areas. They sometimes migrate to the closer and somewhat more humid south of Rajasthan.
The search for pasture in Rajasthan has become ever more dire over time. The area sown in Rajasthan increased from 32 percent in 1954 to 44 percent in 1981. In Jodhpur and Barmer Districts, by 1981, the area sown was 50 percent. Protected forest land increased from 4 percent to 6 percent. Fallow land decreased from 18 percent to 9 percent. Other uncultivated land was 27 percent. Only 7 percent was permanent pasture and grazing lands. Increased agriculture can be attributed to the population increase in Jodhpur District between 1901 and 1981, from 400,000 to 1,700,000. The population density of Jodhpur District in 1981 was 48 per square kilometer. In 1981, there are fifty million livestock in Rajasthan, of which 3,500,000 are in Jodhpur District. The Thar Desert becomes ever more crowded, and the pastureland shrinks in tandem.
Thar pastoral specialists, like part-time breeders, draw some products—milk, ghee, wool, hair, traction—from their animals for subsistence purposes, but are also heavily market-oriented. Camel herders, such as the Magera-Kalan Reika and Dalana Bishnoi, sell two-year-old males to agriculturalists for traction, mainly pulling plows. Sheep herders offload many of their rams, which helps to maintain a majority of offspring and milk-producing females. Other products from flocks that are sold are wool, ghee, and dung from animal pens. Rajasthani pastoralists produce a large portion of India’s wool. During migration of large collaborating herds, stationing on harvested land for fertilization brings a substantial return in agricultural products or cash. Milk from cattle herds is sold fresh or as ghee to markets or dairy procurement networks.
The seasonal migration of Rajasthani pastoralists away from their home desert to more humid regions outside of the State is also running into obstacles already familiar from developments in Rajasthan. Throughout northwest and north central India, the expansion of population, livestock, agriculture, and forest closure means an ever more crowded migration route. Many potential paths are blocked by agriculture. Increasingly, resistance to the presence of Rajasthani flocks and herds is felt from local villagers in the destination regions. Peasant pastoralists are vulnerable in this regard, unlike tribal pastoralists who claim and can enforce control of a territory. In the past, Rajasthani flocks of a dozen or fifteen owners, amounting to a thousand or more animals, were typical. But in the face of resistance in the destination regions, Thar pastoralists have banded together for protection and intimidation in larger and larger groups, with up to five thousand animals. But the going gets continually more difficult.
The described trends evident in the latter half of the 20th century have continued in the 21st century, and consequently, the inhibitions to pastoralism have intensified. The human and livestock population of India, including Rajasthan and Gujarat, have increased; India is nothing if not crowded, and getting more crowded. That means that pasture and access to pasture is increasingly scarce. Under government emphasis on environmentalism, village wasteland, once used for grazing, is now fenced, its increased vegetation not available to livestock. Similarly, livestock is now forbidden to enter forests, which in the past were attractive dry season refuges. Traditional rainfall agriculture, which had a long fallow season, with post-harvest stubble available to livestock and the need for animal droppings for fertilization, has been increasingly replaced by irrigation agriculture, which supports multiple crops and has little or any fallow periods. Pastoralists are thus increasingly blocked from pasture in their home villages and while on migration, making herding increasingly difficult. One counter-trend is the increasing sale of male lambs for slaughter, perhaps due to increased disposable wealth in India, particularly among nonvegetarian castes and Muslims.
The cattle, buffalo, and sheep and goat-herding members of the Bharawad caste, whose home base was Saurashtra, an arid zone in north Gujarat, traditionally followed a strategy similar to the Rajasthan pastoralists (Salzman 1988). They migrated south during the hot, dry season to the more humid climes of south Gujarat or northern Maharashtra, and then back north to home in the wet season. One reason for the short stay in the south was that the small stock could not tolerate the monsoon wet season, being subject to hoof disease. The Bharawad sold ghee, clarified butter, which needs no refrigeration, and would pasture their animals on harvested agricultural stubble, bringing payment from farmers for fertilization of the land.
The group of one hundred forty Bharawad families from Dhanduka District of Saurashtra shifted from their nomadic life to a settled life on the outskirts of Surat City, in south Gujarat. They occupied a large, depressed area, a gully next to the ruins of the old city wall on the outside of the ring road that surrounds Surat. There they built family huts and shelters for their animals. Their mixed herds were replaced by buffalo, valued for the high fat content of their milk, which became the product that they supplied on a daily basis to the residents of Surat, doing their delivery rounds with carts, bicycles, or motorcycles. These Bharawad thus stopped being nomadic herders and became sedentary dairymen. No longer pastoralists taking their animals to natural pasture, the Bharawad had to provide fodder for buffalo. They cut grass, under contract, on hospital and college campuses nearby, keeping the cut grass as fodder. They also purchased oil cakes for their buffalo.
The case of another group of Bharawad who herded their cattle in the forest of south Gujarat is somewhat different. They were mainly consumption-oriented milk producers, but occasionally made the arduous journey by train to Surat to sell milk. The demand for milk is great in India because milk is the main source of protein for “clean” Hindu castes whose members do not eat meat. And the demand grew as the population grew. Dairies were short of supply, so they looked to recruit milk producers. The Bharawad were an ideal target, as they were already expert milk producers. In the mid-1970s, agents of the Surat District Co-operative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd, headquartered at Sumul Dairy in Surat City, enticed the Bharawad to settle in Umarpada Village in Surat District, guaranteeing a reliable milk pickup and steady income. Eventually sixty-five Bharawad families settled in the village, abandoning nomadic life for a sedentary one and for subsistence from market production. The Bharawad continue to graze their cattle in nearby forests, so they do continue being pastoralists.
The Pastori of Sardinia, Italy
In the European Mediterranean countries, rural life was organized, under state influence, into municipalities with large territories. These territories were designed to include all necessary resources for the municipality to be self-sufficient, each including village sites, water sources, agricultural land, pasture, and forest. In Italy, these municipalities were called comuni (sing. comune); in Spain, they were called pueblos (sing. pueblo).
Italians are identified with the comune in which they are legally residente; without legal residence in a comune, one is not eligible for medical treatment, for driving documents, or access to any other official status or service. Wherever people live in Italy, they can only vote for regional and national elections in their home comune. Emotional identification with the comune is strong in many people; this identification is called campanilismo, or loyalty to the territory within the sound of the church bell tower.1
The comune of Villagrande Strisaili is in the region of Ogliastra in the east central part of Sardinia (Salzman 1999, chap. 3). Ogliastra is somewhat isolated and is sometimes referred to as “la isola nel isola,” the island in the island. Ogliastra consists of mountains to the west, which, facing east, take the shape of an amphitheatre surrounding a lowland, coastal plain, which takes a horseshoe shape, and then, to the east, the Tyrrhenian Sea, across which is the Italian peninsula. Along the eastern side of the mountains are the main settlements of northern Ogliastra: from the north, Baunei, Talana, Villagrande Strisaili, Arzana, and Lanusei.
The comune of Villagrande Strisaili consists of 210.4 square kilometers (52,000 acres or 81.2 sq. mi.). It stretches from the high mountains to the coastal plain. As is common in the European Mediterranean, there is a central, nucleated settlement, the town of Villagrande Strisaili, population 3,243, on the mountain slope. There is also a smaller town, a frazione, on the high plateau, called Villanova, with a population of several hundreds.
All land in Villagrande Strisaili is owned communally. Forests are held communally. Some land is allocated to families on a usufruct basis for cultivation, livestock breeding, or pasture. As families and circumstances change, land is reallocated.
Up to around 1900, the Villagrande comune economy was almost entirely subsistence oriented. Most every family engaged in multiple forms of primary production which could include vines for grapes, olive trees for oil, vegetable gardens, herb gardens, chickens, and pigs. For the most part, these crops and animals were subsidiary to the two main forms of production, grain cultivation and sheep and goat rearing. Women usually carried the brunt of the gardens and non-migratory animals, while men engaged either in larger-scale grain cultivation or herding of small stock (Da Re 1990; Assumth 1997).
The herders were and are called pastori (sing. pastore) (Angioni 1989). Their main herding technique was transhumance (It.: transumanza), the movement of flocks between the highland pastures used during the summer and the lowland pastures used in winter. This is a macroenvironmental adaptation in response to major environmental factors: seasonal variation and major altitude differences. Transhumance thus differs markedly from Shah Nawazi microenvironment adaptation. Many tribal pastoralists, such as the Iranian Zagros tribes, who may be called “mountain pastoralists,” follow a transhumance pattern: summer in the highlands, winter in the lowlands (Barth 1986; Beck 1991).
Villagrandesi pastoralists have independently established, private sheep stations, ovili (sing.: ovile), one in the cool mountain highlands, the other in the warm coastal lowlands. (Strisaili, as the comune was originally called, is said to be a corruption of the words tre ovili, three sheep stations.) Ovili are simple, rude wood and stone constructions: a hut and a corral. The hut is used for storage, cooking, and sleeping, but also for processing milk and making wheels (It.: sing. forma, pl. forme) of cheese.
These forme of sheep’s milk cheese, pecorino (from pecora, sheep), or goat’s milk cheese, caprino (from capre, goat), were then transferred to the permanent home in Villagrande or Villanova, where they were stored in the cool basement (Italian: cantina; Sardinan: su bashu) of the stone houses. They were kept company by pork hams hanging from the rafters as they dry cured into prosciuto, by many jars of tomato sauce from garden tomatoes, and by casks of wine from family vines. All or most of this prepared food was for the consumption of the families that produced it. There was some exchange in the village, especially between the grain cultivators and the cheese producers.
Bread and cheese, wheat pasta, and wine were staples of consumption. A full meal, usually pranzo at midday or early afternoon, consisted, especially on the Sunday sabbath, for feste (holidays), or for guests, of an antipasto (before the meal) of prosciuto and olives, a primo piatto (first plate) of some kind of pasta, with salsa or in soup, a secondo piatto (second plate) of meat, contorni (vegetables), and, to end the meal, fruita (fruit) and dolce (sweets). Obviously, the foodstuffs available depended on the prosperity of the family and yearly conditions of production.
Shepherds in their ovili did not eat full meals. They always had fresh milk and they depended on dried flat bread, called in Villagrande pistoccu. Bread much like large pitas were baked; then the pitas were sliced open and the bread rebaked until it was dry. In this form, pistoccu could last for months. Stacks of it were transported to ovili. The bread was dampened on the rough side and softened, just prior to eating. Cheese was also readily available, preferably stagionato (matured). Common, then, was the shepherds’ staff of life: pane e formagio (bread and cheese).
There was a marked difference between life in the towns and life in the pastures (Meloni 1984). In the towns, women reined. In each family, the senior active male was called padrone (male manager), and the senior active female the padrona (female manager). Social relations between families were established and kept up by interactions among women. Women were also responsible for dealing with commercial and government agencies. When young boys were removed from school to aid at the families’ ovili, girls remained in school and so were more highly literate and numerate than boys, as were the adult women more literate and numerate than the men. It was women who managed families’ budgets, giving pocket money to the men. Major economic decisions were made in concert by the padrone and padrona.
In the pastures, overseen by male pastori, life was more agonistic. State forces of order, such as the national police, the carabinieri, were largely absent. Competition among shepherds was not uncommon. It was the obligation of each shepherd to defend his flock and the livelihood of his family. Conflict could arise over animals and pasture and between personalities. Resolution took the form of “self-help” by shepherds acting on behalf of their own and their family interests. Pasture agonism was exacerbated by rustling, abigeato, even of entire herds (Caltagirone 1989). Violence, including arson and murder, were an occasional result. Violence sometimes led to vendettas, which could be carried over years.
Although in tribal societies, “self-help” violence is generally undertaken by corporate descent groups such as lineages, tribal section, or tribes, in peasant pastoral societies, which exist under greater or lesser control of the state and its agencies, corporate defense groups have been suppressed, and self-help is left to individuals or members of immediate, nuclear families (Salzman 2004, chap. 5). So it was in Villagrande: there was no corporate organization or defense group between the nuclear family and the comune with its municipal organization under Italian state control.
Social and economic changes in Italy during the 20th century impacted Villagrande in important ways, such as the transition from a totally subsistence economy to a substantially market-oriented economy. Two great changes were behind this: First, there was a flow of Italian peasantry out of Italy to the New World. Second, vast quantities of inexpensive New World grain became available and were imported to Italy. These changes affected Villagrande by undermining grain cultivation and by providing a market for sheep and goat milk. Italian immigrants in the New World wanted formaggio pecorino, sheep’s milk cheese, for their pasta and tomato sauce, and they wanted genuino Italian pecorino. Italian cheeses became an important export.
Villagrande pastori began to sell their milk to large dairies that made pecorino for the home and export market. The more milk they sold, the more money they received. The modest-sized flocks that were suitable for family subsistence were too small to bring substantial remuneration from the dairies, so shepherds began to expand their herds. Pastures adequate for family herds now became more crowded, and conflict increased. This led some shepherds to look elsewhere. As peasants abandoned agricultural estates in Tuscany, Siena, and elsewhere for industrial jobs in the north of Italy, large rural areas became disused. Some Sardinian shepherds transferred their flocks to Tuscany, Siena, and other provinces to make use of the abandoned agricultural fields for pasturing their animals, secured by rental payments to the landowners (Solinas 1989–1990).
By mid-century, the cheese industry came to be more organized and routinized. The Romano company built a large factory in Macomer, in the north of Sardinia, which accounted for almost half of all of the pecorino production in Italy. Villagrande pastori did not sell all of their milk to the dairies. Most of the winter milk produced in the lowlands went to the dairies. But milk from the summer highlands where the flocks grazed on the wild herbs was made into cheese by the shepherds for family and local consumption.
For Villagrandesi pastori, both technology and work schedules changed. With income from the sale of milk, some shepherds bought motor vehicles, which allowed them to frequently return to the village and their families rather than remaining in their oviles for months at a time. Those who owned or rented trucks made the migration between the lowlands and highlands transporting their flocks rather than requiring their flocks to walk the long and arduous journey (Chatty 1986). By the 1980s, the ovili had some technological innovations. The European Union, in its program to assist underdeveloped regions, provided solar panels for electricity in ovili. Power was limited, and shepherds had to make the difficult choice between using it for a television or for a small refrigerator for beer.
For centuries, the pastore was an iconic figure in Sardinia. He encapsulated the male virtues of independence, hard work, endurance, tenacity, bravery, astuteness, and adapting to harsh living conditions. Furthermore, shepherds tended to be formidable physical specimens, with great muscular arms, hands like hams, and fingers like fat sausages, a result of grabbing, pushing, holding, and carrying sheep and goats daily.
But by the 1980s, a larger conceptual frame of reference has arrived in highland Sardinia via Italian national schooling and the diffusion of television (Salzman 1996). Villagrandesi and other highlanders began to see the middle-class lives and office employment of mainland Italians portrayed in schoolbooks and on television. The idea that highland Sardinia was “far behind” in development became widely accepted. Peasants, contadini, were often ridiculed as “rubes” in Italian media. Highlanders said, “We don’t want to be contadini.” They began to pine after posti fissi, office jobs with regular hours and pensions. Shepherds who had 24-hour-a-day jobs looking after their flocks, far from their families, living in rude conditions, having to struggle with other shepherds for survival, and “smelling like sheep,” ceased being seen as ideal models and as having a desirable occupation. Female highlanders became less enthusiastic about marrying shepherds. As a consequence, with new choices being made, the pastoral sector began to decline. At the same time, the worldwide demand for formaggio pecorino and caprino has remained strong, with 16,000+ tons of pecorino exported from Italy annually, not including consumption in Italy itself.2 Some shepherds shifted to raising their livestock on farms or small ranches (Murru Corriga 1990).
To update this text, in spite of the appeal of higher education and posti fissi, jobs with limited hours and pensions, many Villagrandesi have continued to be attracted to pastoralism, particularly with the added incentive of EU and government subsidies. In 2016, the Municipality of Villagrande Strisaili assigned 12,891 hectares of communal land to pasture out of a total of approximately 24,000 hectares. The provision of regional and community contributions (EEC) has stimulated the start of new registrations of agro-pastoral enterprises. In 2016, there were 112 companies registered, of which sixty-two were preexisting and fifty were new registrations. Of these new fifty registrations, twenty-four were male entrepreneurs and twenty-six female entrepreneurs between ages 20 and 70, and some were family members of retired pastori who had taken jobs in reforestation. In 2019, the registered agro-pastoral companies increased to 133, with twenty-one new applications, especially by young people.
In Corsica as well, there has been a shift from seasonal, nomadic transhumance of sheep and goats to sedentary farms and ranches in the old lowland winter quarters. To compensate for the loss of natural pasture, the breeders cultivate fodder crops (Salzman, personal observation). Some Corsican pastoralists lost their summer pasture to colonial residents transferred by the French government from North Africa to coastal Corsica. Flocks were sold and replaced by pigs, which could be left without supervision to forage while their owners took paid jobs.
Unlike independent tribal pastoralists who control their own territory and make their own rules, peasant pastoralists are constrained by the decisions and legal systems of the state within which they live. For example, in both Rajasthan and Sardinia, pastoralists are, on environmentalist grounds, barred from entering forests that make up a significant portion of uncultivated land. In cases of conflicts, whether between farmers and Rajasthani pastoralists on the move or between Sardinian pastori in the pastures, regional and state authorities tend to impose their rules, which differ from and do not favor the pastoralists.
Pastoralists share many common concerns: acquiring and protecting their livestock; managing their livestock, including selecting the best animals for breeding and reducing unproductive animals; gaining the best available environmental conditions for their animals, often through migration to preferable locations; extracting products from their animals and processing the products when desirable; finding customers for animal products, processed or unprocessed; acquiring needed products not produced by their animals; and maintaining satisfactory relations with other populations.
At the same time, pastoralist groups may differ from one another in important respects: they raise different kinds of animals that have different needs, such as grazers and browsers and hot and cold weather animals; they may be adapted to quite different environments, such as microenvironmental adaptations or macroenvironmental adaptations; everyone in the group may migrate or they may split along age and sex lines; they may control their own territories or, in contrast, must gain access to pasturelands controlled by others; they may be largely independent, forming tribal groups with political and coercive power, or they may be under the aegis of a state, forming a specialized sector of the peasantry; they may produce primarily for their own consumption or may be market oriented, selling animals and animal products; they may maintain their pastoral orientation or choose to transition into more sedentary and nonpastoral occupations, even if they continue to maintain livestock.
As do all human and nonhuman populations, pastoralists share both commonality and diversity.
Discussion of the Literature
Foundational classics of the anthropological literature on pastoralists, such as Evans-Pritchard’s The Nuer: A Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People (1940), Gulliver’s The Family Herds: A Study of Two Pastoral Tribes in East Africa, The Jie and Turkana (1955), Fredrik Barth’s Nomads of South Persia: The Basseri Tribe of the Khamseh Confederacy (1961), Lewis’ A Pastoral Democracy: A Study of Pastoralism and Politics among the Northern Somali of the Horn of Africa (1961), and Dyson-Hudson’s Karimojong Politics (1966) were largely synchronic, reporting only on the period of research, and focused primarily on the culture and internal social relations of the pastoral society studied. A model for future research was set out in Evans-Pritchard’s Sanusi of Cyrenaica (1949), which portrayed the Bedouin pastoralists in a wider political and economic context that included the Ottoman Empire, the Sanusi Sufi Order, the Islamic World, the Italian Empire, and Egyptian and English import markets, as well in historical contexts covering four decades of the first half of the 20th century. Some subsequent pastoral ethnographies, such as Lancaster’s The Rwala Bedouin Today (1981) and Beck’s The Qashqa’i of Iran (1986), emphasized the relations between the tribe and the state and, in the case of the Rwala, the multiple states and state borders that were negotiated and manipulated. Dissatisfaction with the limits of synchronic accounts led to the production of historical accounts, such as Lewis’ The Modern History of Somaliland (1965) and Tapper’s Frontier Nomads of Iran (1997). Peasant pastoralists and their economic transactions also came to receive some anthropological attention, as in Campbell’s Honour, Family and Patronage: A Study of Institutions and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community (1964), Bates’ Nomads and Farmers: A Study of the Yoruk of Southeastern Turkey (1973), and Bradburd’s Ambiguous Relations: Kin, Class, and Conflict among Komachi Pastoralists (1990). Works in the 21st century on pastoral peoples, such as McCabe’s Cattle Bring Us to Our Enemies: Turkana Ecology, Politics, and Raiding in a Disequilibrium System (2004) and Marx’s Bedouin of Mount Sinai: An Anthropological Study of Their Political Economy (2013), illustrate the domination of tribal pastoralists by government agencies and, in the case of the Bedouin, labor markets.
The shift shown in the pastoralist literature reflects two trends, one in anthropology and one in the wider world. In anthropology, the desire to move from largely descriptive accounts to explanatory ones, especially in regard to change, led to adoption of new approaches, including Marxist ones, with increased interest in state and local relations, supralocal power and its impact on local people, and colonial regimes and relationships. Thus, anthropologists adopted a broadening of focus beyond the local, as well as more emphasis on historical perspective. Changes in the wider world throughout the 20th century, particularly the strengthening of state apparatuses in relation to peripheral tribal peoples, which resulted in transformed state–local relationships on the ground, led to anthropological accounts reporting these developments and their impacts on pastoral peoples.
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