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Mobile Pastoralism and Resilience to Climate Change: The Raikas of the Thar Desert in India
Over the past few decades, changes in socio-economic and political systems, land use, and recent global climatic conditions have adversely affected agricultural, and mobile pastoral people across the world. However, in India and elsewhere these people have been able to continue their age-old occupations through environmentally sustainable ways forming part of their social and cultural practices. The Raika are one such pastoral people inhabiting the Thar Desert of Rajasthan, India. They manage their livelihoods through herding camels, sheep, and goats with both short and long-distance migrations. They undertake long-distance migrations of up to 1000 miles moving across various areas. Western Rajasthan is an arid region with low rainfall and its inhabitants have experienced frequent droughts and recurrent famines for centuries. The paper attempts to understand various mechanisms used by Raika in order to sustain their pastoralism in these harsh environmental conditions. The paper focuses on relationship of the Raikas with their environment, with particular emphasis on their religious beliefs and local knowledge, which help them to cope with the changing climate. It also underlines how various local institutions and strategies are helping the Raikas to continue their survival through mobile pastoralism in different regions. The paper is the outcome of intensive fieldwork among the Raika mobile pastoralist of Pali and Jodhpur districts of Rajasthan and also with different agencies such farmers forest officials and local people at migration areas (Haryana) by using anthropological methods: semi-structural interviews, participant and non-participant observations, case study, focus group discussion.