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Environmental Migration as Planned Livelihood Among the Rebaris of Western Rajasthan, India

Vipul Singh

Global Environment 9 (2012): 50–73

The Rebaris are a traditional pastoral community in the semi-arid zone of western Rajasthan. Historically, the Rebaris have adapted to local scarcity through migration. These “environmental migrants” cover hundreds and even thousands of miles each year to feed their sheep, goats, and camels. They migrate in large groups, with each camp consisting of adults, children, and hundreds of animals. Unlike other pastoral groups throughout the world who have gradually become more sedentary, the Rebaris continue to migrate with their flocks of sheep in order to adapt to harsh climatic conditions. Despite the arid conditions and unpredictable grazing resources in western Rajasthan, herd populations have increased. In recent years, the Rebaris have expanded their range, migrating to more distant regions such as Haryana, the Punjab, and even Andhra Pradesh, almost 1,000 miles from Rajasthan. On occasion they have remained away from their homes for the entire year. This paper argues that a broader view of environmental migration is needed in order to understand the relationship between increasing herd sizes and shrinking grazing resources. My research suggests that environmental migration in western Rajasthan, once viewed as a response to drought and famine, has also developed into a planned livelihood strategy.
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