Livestock and livelihoods: dynamics of gender, class, caste and ethnicity in rural agrarian communities of Nepal
Gurung, Kamala (2010) Livestock and livelihoods: dynamics of gender, class, caste and ethnicity in rural agrarian communities of Nepal. PhD thesis, James Cook University.
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This thesis analyses the role of smallholder livestock production within mixed farming practices in the agrarian society of Nepal based on a detailed analysis by gender, class, caste, and ethnicity from six communities representative of the three agro-ecological regions-Mountain, Hill and Terai. Over the past decade, farmers have gradually integrated market based small scale livestock enterprises into subsistence farming systems for livelihood enhancement which has generated alternative livelihood opportunities for the reduction of poverty among poor and disadvantaged people. Specific attention is given to both the assumptions that surround the promotion of livestock development as a poverty alleviation programme, and the investigation of complex society-livestock development-environment relations through the incorporation of 'everyday' interactions at different scales. Moreover, in such a mixed farming system there is a dynamic relationship between livestock, crop and common property resources (e.g. forest, pastureland) whereby, depending on the agro-ecological region, livestock production depends to a certain extent on fodder and grass from common property resources (CPRs).
The thesis uses a theoretical framework derived from political ecology to critically analyse how society, development and environment orthodoxies influence livestock production and management practices. The research used multiple methods (qualitative and quantitative methods) including participatory research techniques which were conducted in six communities from Mustang, Lalitpur and Chitwan representative of the three agro-ecological regions respectively. Socio-economic and gender analysis, and cross comparative analytical tools were used to discover the main factors influencing current livestock production and inequitable benefit sharing of livestock development across gender, class, caste, and ethnic groups.
The discussion of the results of the research begins with a consideration of rural livelihood diversity from an historical context and from empirical investigations that were conducted in order to explore the vulnerability of diverse caste and ethnic groups across agro-ecological regions of Nepal. This thesis then examines the specific roles of livestock production and changes over the time. The effects and consequences of both pre-existing socio-cultural values of livestock, and agro-ecological circumstances on the current market based livestock production and consumption preferences are examined in South Asia generally, and more specifically in Nepal. Following this, the thesis addresses gender roles and relations and also the gendered effects of market based livestock production and management systems across the three agro-ecological regions, and class, caste and ethnic groups are described and analysed. Finally, there is examination of the relevance of environmental problems and challenges that are associated with the current market based livestock production systems based on the farmers views and perceptions.
The findings reveal that over the past decade, farmers from various socio-economic groups have integrated small scale market based livestock production into their subsistence agricultural systems to generate cash income. There is also evidence that the preference for particular livestock enterprises is influenced by socio-cultural values, characteristics of the agro-ecological region, and availability of livestock feed resources. In the process of developing market based livestock production and management systems, gender roles and relations have changed and a greater income inequality has been created among the rural poor, differentiated by class, caste, and ethnicity. The findings also reveal that, in contrast to the general assumption that livestock has degraded natural resources, farmers views/perceptions indicate that current livestock enterprise practices in the hill and Terai regions have not impacted negatively on common property resources (mainly forests). This is due to the introduction of community forestry programmes, along with stall feeding practices and the use of alternative feed resources (e.g., private cultivated land and other feed resources). However, according to the farmers, these regions have been facing new environmental challenges from livestock processing and wastes; a finding that requires further investigation. In contrast to hill and Terai regions, the pastureland areas of the mountain region, are being degraded due to the lack of alternative feed resources/options.
The study concludes that there is a critical need to prioritise and combine three key elements/factors in order to formulate an inclusive livestock development framework to address the issues of vulnerability and social exclusion in rural livestock development. They are: i) address pre-existing livestock based socio-cultural values in order to include the poorest of the poor, such as the Dalit group and other disadvantaged ethnic groups, ii) introduce livestock which are suitable to the agro-ecological conditions, and iii) consider the availability of and access to livestock feed resources. The positive implications that potentially emanate from social inclusion include the maintenance of rural income equality across household, community and regional levels, and livestock management and production systems that are environmentally sustainable across the three agro-ecological regions of Nepal.
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