Changes in transhumant agro-pastoralism in Bhutan: A disappearing livelihood?

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This paper presents research on changes in the practice of transhumant agro-pastoralism (TAP) in Bhutan within the context of global changes to pastoralism. Households practicing TAP migrate their cattle to lower elevations during winter to access pastures and gain employment. Information was gathered from in-depth interviews (n=24 households), focus groups (n=7) and a semi-structured survey (n=75 households) from six villages. Nine government and non-government agency staff and six livestock extension staff were involved in interviews and focus groups respectively. There has been a 31% decline in the number of households practicing TAP between 1990 and 2010, due to farm labour shortage, alternative livelihood choices, government policies and climate change. Nevertheless, TAP practice persists, forming the mainstay of many families. The historical legacy, economic and social importance of cattle and a desire to gain formal rights to common land keeps TAP alive today. We conclude that TAP is likely to continue to decline as Bhutan develops, however, households need to be supported to make informed choices about their future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)779-792
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


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