• Despite having the third largest sheep population in the world and 145 million goats, India imports most of its wool and goat cheese. Do indigenous wool and milk surpluses represent opportunities to enhance livelihoods?
  • 40% of India’s 197 recognized livestock breeds are bred by pastoralists. Can we do more to recognize and support India’s “Keepers of Genes”?
  • Herder migrations can take place over hundreds of kilometers and involve grazing animals in government and private lands. Obtaining forage over these landscapes is proving more and more difficult. How can herders secure rights to these traditionally grazed lands?
  • Pastoralism and grasslands have remained largely invisible in Indian academia. How can research on both be facilitated?
  • Mind share is just as important as market share for the survival of pastoralism. CfP’s outreach showcases pastoralist knowledge, practices and crafts to promote public awareness, appreciation and support.
Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, between 10 and 20 million pastoralists graze India’s forests, grasslands and farm fallows. Their many contributions have rarely been recognized as mainstream society has tended to see pastoralism​ as an outmoded way of life. In truth, they are custodians of India’s remarkable animal diversity and significant contributors to our dairy and meat markets. Their poetry, music, art and craft form a crucial part of Indian cultural heritage and identity. Most critically, pastoralist mobility, an adaptive response to climatic extremes, marks them out as communities with an ability to adapt to a changing climate regime.
The Centre for Pastoralism (CfP) works across India on collaborative programs to enhance pastoralist livelihood security, gain mainstream recognition of livestock breeds developed by pastoralists, explore ways of securing their access to grazing resources, promote research to enhance understanding of pastoral systems and undertake outreach to educate society on pastoralism and its many contributions. In advancing these goals, CfP works in close partnership with civil society, academia, government agencies and the private sector.

CfP is a Sahjeevan initiative that emerged from Sahjeevan’s 2016 Living Lightly: Journeys with Pastoralists Exhibition Sahjeevan’s work on pastoralism in Kachchh, Gujarat over the past two decades has enjoyed a number of successes, and CfP was set up with the idea of expanding this work outside of Gujarat, in the rest of India.

Strengthening pastoral livelihoods

India has 145 million goats and 74 million sheep but imports nearly all of its goat’s cheese and 95% of wool used by the apparel industry. Our aim is to identify and resolve institutional, financial and design related bottlenecks that have thus far prevented large-scale diversification of pastoral incomes. Read more to learn about our initiatives aimed at enhancing pastoralist incomes.
Milk matters: enhancing returns from pastoral milk
Pastoral Dhanda: building artisanal enterprises
The Desi Oon 

Obtaining mainstream recognition for pastoral breeds

Nearly 40% of India’s 197 recognized livestock breeds are managed by pastoral systems. This simple statement points to the remarkable contribution that pastoral communities have made in building and maintaining India’s domesticated animal genetic diversity. CfP works closely with the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, regional agricultural universities, Animal Husbandry Departments, the Ministries of Agriculture and Animal Welfare and partners in civil society to secure mainstream recognition for their intellectual and material contributions. 
Keepers of Genes

Securing herder access to grazing

Herder migrations can take place over hundreds of kilometers, often through densely settled parts of the country. Invariably there are multiple claimants to the same natural resources. It is not surprising that pastoralists complain of the growing obstacles they face in obtaining access to the lands they have historically used to graze their animals.

Amongst the many categories of land that pastoralists graze on, those managed by the Forest Department are perhaps the most critical in maintaining the integrity of the pastoral cycle. The Forest Department controls close to 21% of India’s landscape, much of which is seasonally grazed by pastoral communities.

CfP is working with a range of partners to explore the potential for pastoralist use of provisions within the Forest Rights Act to claim access to traditional grazing grounds.


Ecological research in India has tended to focus on mega-fauna and on forests; agrarian research has focused primarily on sedentary agriculturists. Pastoralism and grasslands have remained on the periphery of Indian academia. This has contributed to limited policy support for pastoralism in the country.

CfP seeks to facilitate the development of pastoral studies in India via commissioned research; the provision of research fellowships; support to a network of field stations in pastoral geographies; the creation of a repository of materials on pastoralism; and the collaborative development of undergraduate and graduate curricula on pastoral studies.


Pastoral ways of life need to gain prominence in our country’s public awareness and popular imagination. Its knowledge, practice systems and rich culture make for fascinating experiences and public exposure to them can help generate support for their continuance.

Our outreach is structured around three major initiatives – the travelling, Living Lightly – Journeys with Pastoralists exhibition our quarterly broadsheet, Pastoral Times and via Pastoral Dialogues, a series of online dialogues with some of the most prominent academics and activists working on pastoralism within and outside India.

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