Mani Ram Moktan, Lungten Norbu, Harilal Nirola, Kencho Dukpa, Tek Bahadur Rai, Rinchen Dorji
Mountain Research and Development 28 (1), 41-48, (1 February 2008) https://doi.org/10.1659/mrd.0802
KEYWORDS: Migratory herding practices, grazing, forest ecology, subsistence farming, livelihoods, Bhutan
Little is understood about the role of transhumance in subsistence economy and the interactions between cattle, forest, and pasture-land in the Himalaya. We examined herding practices and the effects of grazing on forest ecology and grassland, using rapid rural appraisal techniques with transhumant herders in Haa and Merak in western and eastern Bhutan. Cattle are the main source of livelihood, contributing 71% and 84% of the herders' gross annual household income in Haa and Merak, respectively. Transhumance is a direct response to cold temperatures, shortage of forage, and the search for livelihood opportunities. Grazing rights over rangeland are individual and community-owned. Grazing regulations are based on mutual understanding and equity among high-elevation pastoralists and low-elevation sedentary cattle owners. The sustained use of rangeland requires accommodation of traditional rights and more clarity about ownership and rangeland management. Temperate forests and grasslands along the established migratory livestock routes exhibit signs of overgrazing that vary with forest types. Rotational grazing is recommended, particularly on severely depleted ranges.