Pastoralists in the Modern World

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pastoralists in the modern world

Pastoralism has been one of the most important topics in many government exams and is also studied at the school level in Class 9. To put it simply, pastoralists are nomads who consistently migrate from one place to another in search of water and food for their animals. Pastoralism can be explained as a way of animal rearing where the livestock owners keep migrating from one place for water and pasture for their cattle. If you are studying this chapter and looking for a summary, read our exclusive Class 9 study notes on Pastoralists in the Modern World which will further help you to get a good grasp on this topic.

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The History of Pastoralism

The history of pastoralism dates back to the Neolithic age. It is strongly believed that the early pastoralists were hunter groups who moved from one place to another in search of prey along with their cattle. It is sometimes referred to as a stage between hunting and agriculture. The pastoral nomads were considered to be superior to the hunters but inferior to the farmers. Pastoral nomads went from one pasture to another along with their livestock. With time hunting ended and the people started to adopt the new modes of civil society such as farming, livestock rearing, etc. The pastoralists in the modern world are responsible for the expansion of civilization to farther lands. It is the pastoralists who moved from one place to another, thus, spreading civilization to the foreign lands.

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What is an example of a Modern Pastoral Society?

Pastoral nomadism still exists in many parts of the world. In India parts of Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, and North-eastern states comprise many tribes who are pastoral nomads explained in your class 9 geography syllabus for Pastoralism in the Modern World. Some of them are Gujjars of Bugyal, Maldhari herders of Gujarat, the Maru Raikas of Rajasthan, etc. The Pastoralists in the modern world have developed from nomads to settlers, but they still engage in animal husbandry and farming. These modern-day Pastoral nomads have registered voter rights and recognition in society and even the nomadic pastoralists are registered voters.

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Colonial Rule and the Pastoral Nomadism

In the colonial era, the life of the Pastoral community changed drastically. Their grazing grounds shrank, movements were regulated and the revenue that they had to pay to the government increased. The impact of the colonial policies was quite detrimental and led to the decline of pastoralism. Here are the effects of colonial rule on the pastoralists in the modern world:

Effects of Colonial Rule

Under colonial rule, the movements of the pastoral nomads were highly regulated. The grounds available to them for grazing and cattle rearing had started to decline at a rapid pace. Land revenue was one of the greatest sources of income for the Colonial government. Therefore, a lot of oppression was faced by the pastoral nomads of the colonies, including India. The British had imposed heavy taxes on the use of forest and forest products, which formed the basic source of income for the pastoralists. Pastoralists faced many difficulties during colonial rule. Given below are the laws that were imposed by the colonial government on pastoralists. 

Wasteland Rules and Forest Acts

The colonial government wished to increase its revenue by bringing all the grazing lands under cultivation. In accordance with the Wasteland Rules Act, all the uncultivated lands that were taken over by the government, were distributed among people who will use them for agricultural purposes. They were also given various concessions and given the right to settle in these lands. This led to the displacement of the native pastoral population from the lands which have been where they conducted all their pastoral activities. What added to the plight of the pastoralists in the modern world was that under the Forests Act, all the forests where they grazed their cattle were declared to be protected lands. As a result, they had to take permission for entering these restricted forests, and more than often, they were denied access. And this threatened their livelihood completely. 

Criminal Tribes Act

In 1871, the British Government in India passed the Criminal Tribes Act by which several pastoral and nomadic communities were deemed suspicious and given the title of “Criminal Tribes”. The particular act came into being because the Britishers were suspicious of the population which cannot be easily traced, identified, and therefore controlled. So, in order to restrict their movement and bring them systematically under the colonial regime, this law was passed. 

Imposition of Grazing Tax

During the nineteenth century, a new tax was introduced in Colonial India and that tax was the “Grazing Tax”. As the name signifies, this tax was levied on people who wished to graze their cattle on the lands belonging to the government. With the coming of Wasteland Rules and Forest Acts, most of the lands were already under the control of the British Government, and therefore to graze their cattle anywhere, the pastoral community had to lay taxes. And this tax was imposed per head of cattle and with time this amount kept on increasing. The colonial government didn’t collect taxes on their own but appointed local contractors for it. And these local constructors with a hope of earning profit extracted as much as they could from these pastoral communities. This put a question mark on their survival itself because they already had a very limited income and now even that way took away from them in the name of tax. 

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How did the Pastoralists Cope with these Changes?

The pastoral community had to make various adjustments to cope with these new changes. Some of the significant changes brought by the pastoralists in the modern world are:

  1.  The number of cattle in a herd was reduced as there was not enough food for them and the taxation policy made it difficult to maintain a big herd.
  2. After the partition of India and Pakistan, borders restricted their movement and therefore they were forced to find new pasture grounds. Many of these communities moved to regions like Haryana. 
  3. Rich pastoralists gave up on their nomadic life, bought lands, and settled there. Some took to agriculture and others to trading as new sources of livelihood. 
  4. The poor pastoralists resorted to borrowing money from moneylenders. But this didn’t end well for them and they had to work as laborers to survive. 

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Why is Pastoral Nomadism Important in the Modern World?

There is a vital role played by pastoralists in the modern world because pastoralism offers the chance for Mother Nature to heal itself. Continuous cattle grazing and rearing at one place cause the land to become sterile after some time. Its resources start to deplete and the soil, as well as the groundwater resources, lose their integrity. Pastoralism is one of the best ways to create a sustainable environment where the rights of the cattle are aligned concerning the duties of Mother Nature. India, Kenya, Iran, Somalia, Afghanistan, Algeria, Nepal, and Russia are some of the countries where Pastoralism is still quite popular and is regularly practiced in modern times.

Pastoralism in Africa

The topography of Africa with its deserts, plateaus, mountains and rivers has a significant history of pastoralists. Africa is a land inhabited by half of the world’s population and therefore Pastoralism is highly rooted in their culture. Till today, an estimated 22 million Africans are dependent on Pastoralism for survival, it’s their source of livelihood. The pastoralists of Africa engage in various pastoral activities like raising cattle, camels, goats, sheep and donkeys. Apart from this, they also sell animal products like milk, meat, animal skin and wool to earn some additional income. Many people from this pastoral community also indulge in trade and transportation activities. The most significant pastoral communities in Africa include Bedouins, Berbers, Maasai, Somali, Boran and Turkana. Let’s get to know more about the pastoralists in the modern world through the Massai Community.

The Maasai Community

The Maasai community of Africa was a group of pastoralists and nomads who were dependent on selling milk and meat for survival. They flourished during the pre-colonial era but with the advent of colonialism their lands called “Masaailand” were taken away and divided into separate regions. So gradually they lost the lands from where they earned their livelihood as those lands were taken over for white settlements and therefore pushed to margins. This forced them to move to small patches of land in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania where they began to indulge in agricultural activities. The Maasai people held a strong belief against agriculture as the thought agricultural activities were against the law of nature. But once colonial expansion took their livelihood away from them they had to engage in it for survival. 

The plight of the Maasai community didn’t stop there. A significant proportion of Masaai grazing lands were turned into game reserves like the Maasai Mara and Samburu National Park in Kenya and Serengeti Park in Tanzania by the colonial government. National parks like  The Serengeti National Park took over almost 14,760 km of Maasai grazing land. And as a result, they were pushed into a life of poverty without any means to earn their livelihood or secure food for their community. 

Kaokoland Herders of Namibia

This was another pastoral community of Africa that survived through selling animal skin, meat and other products in the nearby markets. But with the coming of the colonial era, laws were established that restricted movement across regions. Now, there were also white settlements in the region and these pastoral communities in the modern world were barred from entering them. With the coming of these territorial boundaries, their livelihood which was earned through trade was deeply impacted and eventually led to their decline. 

How do Pastoralists in Modern World Live and Earn?

The pastoralists in the modern world live and earn in societies where a larger part of the families dwell in one place. Most of the men go around the village areas and rear cattle as they look for pastures for grazing. They earn by selling the products derived from their cattle such as milk, skin, meat, wool, fur, etc.

Problems Faced by the Pastoralists in the Modern World

The Pastoralists of the modern world face a lot of problems some of which are-

  • Depletion in their base of income
  • Frequent changes in their financial relationship in several regional contexts
  • Interference and dominance of state agencies in their activities.

The culture of pastoralism is not regulated. Pastoralists believe in several customary rights and hold their traditions very dearly. These customary rights which they feel belong to them often contradict with the policy and management of the central and state government. They go through an identity crisis and are constantly faced with many problems of technological advancements and innovation.

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How is Pastoralism Contributing to the Environment?

It contributes to creating a sustainable environment. It places no burden on the groundwater resources. Its activities help in controlling climate change. It helps improve the quality of pastures. Most of the activities of the pastoral nomads do not need any irrigation facilities. The water requirements are mostly fulfilled by the plants that are ingested by the cattle.

The Pastoralists in the modern world are environmentally conscious people, the choice areas of their movement are very cautiously chosen. The process of shifting from one place to another allows time for mother nature to heal.

Pastoralists are an essential part of our modern society. They are one of the categories of modern society that still follow several customary rights which help in environment conservation. They mostly live around forests and green zones and thus have developed various methods of forest conservation that help prevent global warming.


Q.1. What are the examples of modern pastoralists?

Ans: Most pastoralists now reside in Mongolia, various regions of Central Asia, and various portions of East Africa.

Q.2. What was the conclusion of pastoralists in the modern world?

Ans: The number of livestock was decreased and new pastures were found by pastoralists in an effort to adapt to the new conditions. Some even invested in land and began to settle down. Pastoralism is still regarded as the most environmentally sustainable way of life.

Q.3. What is the importance of pastoralists in the society?

Ans: Across a variety of environments, including tundra, savannas, and grasslands, pastoralists lead and feed their animals. Pastoralism plays a crucial role in lowering poverty and ensuring food security in these places by using a variety of local breeds that can adapt to changing circumstances.

We hope that this blog on Pastoralists in the Modern World in Class 9 helped you understand the essentials of this chapter. Confused about picking the right stream after 10th? Let our Leverage Edu experts help you in selecting the right stream as per your interests and career aspirations! Sign up for a free session now!

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