This is a very inspiring case study for all the pastoralists across the globe that has victims of range land encroachment. It shows the collective strength of the pastoralist to reclaim their range land.
Maldhari (Pastoralist) couple making butter out of sheep milk
Grazing pocket of Kandhuka Mountains
Rapar is one of the blocks of Kutch District in Gujarat in India. It is spread across 2,97,184 hectors of land. It is one of the pockets where there is maximum migration in Pastoralist community. It is semi arid dry land facing rapid desertification. Results of survey conducted by team MARAG say that 87.7% of pastoralists are landless as the state law says that Pastoralist do not have any right to become farmers and owe land.
Rapar has seen very steep decrease in grazing land in last few years. Loss of grazing land and their fragile livelihood options dependent on CPR compel majority of pastoralist into distressed migration.
This case study is about 180 families who have been staying in Umaiya village with their 12000 small ruminants and 2000 livestock. This land was majorly held by the farmers of dominant communities 200 years ago. This led to continuous conflict between farmers and the pastoralist. Pastoralist presented this issue to the king of the region who heard their story of distressed situation and gave them a mountain called Kandhuka Dungar just 9 kilometers away from the village. This mountain is spread across in more than 100 acres of land. King gave them a written document saying that land is for their livestock grazing. Since the document is given to them by the king it is considered to be valid document even today.
The prices of land are growing in leaps and bound in Kutch district. On seeing the rise in the price of the land the dominant farmers slowly started their farming activities in this area. There was no means for the pastoralist to get this message on their migratory route. On coming back from migration when the pastoralist saw that the land was tilled by the big farmers, they requested the farmer to vacant the land for their live stocks. The struggle for their reclamation started in 2007. The farmers did not pay any heed to their request and carried on their activities saying that they had invested lot of money in tilling the land and hence will not vacant.
On seeing the non cooperation from the big farmers, the Pastoralist with the help of team MARAG made applications to various land and revenue departments and sought the information under RTI (Right to information Act) at block level. They even attached the document given to them by the king giving them the ownership of the mountain. No satisfactory reply was received.
Pastoralist decided to take this matter in their own hand hold the bull by its horn to reclaim their lost grass land. Any amount of persuasion did not convince the farmers to leave the land so they produced different application done at various departments to the farmers. They strategized that unitedly lay down their lives for the protection of grazing land. They informed the police about their resolution and slept in front of the tilling land as they had no other means of livelihood.
After all these effort farmers finally relented as they came under pressure and decided to vacant the land.
This is a great moment of victory for all pastoralists as collectively we strategized and reclaimed our grazing land after intense struggle of 4 years.