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Development Of Livestock Farming In Cholistan Pakistan Environmental Sciences Essay

Agriculture Geography is the branch of geography which concerns with the study of formulation and testing of hypothesis, interpretation of geographic distribution and location of various characteristic of agriculture activities on the surface of the earth. Almost all nations of the world have embarked on agriculture production, with ascent on establishing the nature of conditions surrounding that production in specific areas or of the conditions favorable to instituting the same in areas not currently devoted to that purpose.

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy of Pakistan. About 75-80 % of the population depends on agriculture, which contributes 30% to the Gross Domestic Product. The total land area of Pakistan, including Azad Kashmir, is 88 M ha. The main land uses in the country are agriculture, livestock production, and forestry. About 5 M ha of the cultivated area (24% of total area) is rain fed while 16 M ha is irrigated. It is estimated that around 60% (45.2 M ha) of the total area is rangelands (Mohammad, 1989). Most of these rangelands receive less than 200 mm rainfall, and are located on rocky soils, deserts, and rough topography. Therefore, productivity is very low and it is not possible to utilize them for sustained farming purposes. However, these rangelands partly support 93.5 M livestock during the summer (Mohammad, 1989).

Integrated farming systems are practiced and shortage of feed is a major limiting factor in livestock production. Livestock is a major source of income in irrigated, arid, semiarid, and rain-fed areas of Pakistan. Most of the rangelands of Pakistan are in arid and semi-arid zones characterized by low precipitation and extremes of temperature and low humidity. Moreover, drought also occurs in these areas (Umrani et al., 1996), and exacerbates the effects of overgrazing which results in complete and permanent loss of some species of vegetation. The major traditional livestock grazing systems practiced in Pakistan are nomadic grazing, Semi-Nomadic grazing, and grazing in the desert rangelands (Mohammad, 1989).

In the arid regions of Pakistan, complexity, variability, and uncertainty characterize the grazing systems. Therefore, management practices are not simple. In desert rangelands, pastoral people respond quickly to available opportunities and challenges. Behnke (1994) reported that arid land pastoral communities usually practice an opportunistic form of resource utilization. Livestock grazing practices in the Thal, Cholistan, Kohistan, and Tharparker desert areas are similar. The desert pastoral communities have ecologically adjusted themselves to utilize marginal areas, which would otherwise not have been utilized. Other studies also suggest that the nomadic system is an excellent way of converting scarce vegetation into animal protein (FAO, 1987; Oxby, 1994).

Cholistan desert, an extension of Great Indian Desert, is located in southern Punjab, Pakistan, between latitude 27o 42' and 29o 45' north and 69o 52' and 73o 05' east. The length of the desert is about 480 km and breadth varies from 32 km to 192 km with an area of 2.6 million hectares. Based on the topography, parent material, soil and vegetation the whole Cholistan desert can be divided into two geomorphic regions. The northern region or Lesser Cholistan borders canal irrigated areas to the bed of abandoned river Hakra in the desert and covers about 7770 square kilometer and southern region or Greater Cholistan which borders with India in south, covers an area of about 18130 square kilometer. Habitations are small and extremely scattered.

The Climate of Cholistan desert is characterized by low and sporadic rainfall. The mean annual rainfall varies from less than 100 mm in the west to 200 mm in the east. Rain usually falls during monsoon (July through September) and in winter and spring (January through March). Monsoon rains occur mostly in heavy showers. Cholistan is one of the hottest regions in Pakistan. Temperatures are high in summer and mild by day in winter but cold at night with occasional frost. The mean summer temperature (May, June) is 34oC with highs reaching above 50oC. Aridity is the most striking feature of Cholistan with wet and dry years occurring in clusters. The annual rainfall may occur during as few as 11 days, although the spatial variation among the rainfall zones may be greater from year to year for entire area. The dry land of Cholistan was once green and prosperous where cultivation was practiced. The area was deserted through desertification processes after the drying of river and the area was left as grazing lands. The human population residing in the area is consisting of many different tribes with different specific characteristics, languages etc. These tribes came from different regions of India, Sind, Baluchistan in old times (Mughel, 1979).

The main resources of water in the Cholistan are: surface and ground water. The surface water is received from rainfall and is collected in the Tobas (ponds) while ground water is obtained through dug wells. Tobas (small ponds) are excavated in the flat areas to collect rainwater for drinking of human and livestock near their residing huts or in the village. Tobas are excavated by each tribe in his own grazing area occupied by their ancestors from centuries. There is also a joint place for living of many tribes in the form of village. Where joint Tobas are excavated by joint efforts. The Tobas are dug by spades and earth is thrown away toward only one side whereas three sides are kept open to enter rainwater from these directions. The rainwater collected in these Tobas remains maximum up to four months where Tobas are small. Toba water is used by the tribe himself and other outsiders from the tribe are not allowed to take water for drinking or other uses. However, where toba is made by joint efforts there the whole community can use water of toba.

The open wells have been constructed by bricks where ground water is drinkable by taste. The quality of ground water for construction of well is judged by taste and not by proper scientific analysis. The diameter of wells varies between one meter to four meter. Depth of wells is between four meter to forty meter. The water from wells is drawn by big leather buckets attached with rope made by hairs of goats or leather strips and pulled by camel. The big bucket full with water is catched by two to three men. The well is also property of the tribe who constructed it. The water of well is used when rainwater in the toba dries.


Grazing of livestock is the most common and the biggest profession among the desert communities. Major part of their income comes from sale of livestock and their products. Economic uplift of these communities, therefore, largely depends on livestock production, which in turn depends on amount of forage available for the livestock round the year. Ruthless exploitation of natural resources i.e. overgrazing due to overstocking coupled with rapid deforestation has enhanced the rate of desertification and consequently production of food, forage, fuelwood and timber has drastically reduced in most of the deserts. This has not only affected the environment of the whole region but has also worsened the socio-economic conditions of the desert communities. It is, therefore, imperative that natural resources of the desert i.e. land, vegetation, water and livestock resources of these areas should not only be conserved but also improved to uplift the socio-economic conditions of the desert dwellers. Drinking water is the limiting factor in some zones (e.g. the Greater Cholistan desert) whereas overgrazing and undernutrition are the major problem in the Lesser Cholistan (Ajmal et al. 1996, Auj 2001).

This study is presently examining the development of livestock farming in Cholistan and extent to which livestock feed, have increased, or perhaps decreased, in availability over time in response to a growing demand for them.


For the review of literature of the proposed topic research articles, books and others related material has been discussed. Related literature review is as following:

Livestock production systems all over the world can be divided into four categories: transhumant, agro-pastoralist, intensive crops and livestock, and peri-urban intensive systems. In addition, there are a few not-so-obvious livestock systems. ‘Pure’ nomads or transhumant does not have a fixed settlement but move between established territories and pastures. They are more common in Africa’s arid and semi-arid regions than anywhere else. In Asia they can be found in India's Rajasthan province, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and in the countries of the Arabian Gulf. In most countries, their population is relatively small in number, but they are well integrated into the local economy. For example, they make up only 2.2% of the population of Iran but supply a major portion of meat, wool and dairy products to the country (International Conference on Nomadism and Development 1992).

Grigg, (1996) in his book “The Agriculture systems of the world:An Evolutionary approach” remarks “Although pastoral nomads of livestock farming are of little importance on a world scale, they still play an important role in some countries. Thus, for example, three-quarters of the population of Somalia are nomadic. In Iran and Afghanistan, 15-20 per cent of the population was nomadic in 1950’s”.Nomadic herders rely solely upon natural vegetation for their livestock’s fodder and rather sow pasture nor store fodder. As they live in areas whose aridity, and in Central Asia, cold, preclude all-year grazing. They are forced to move their herds in search of new pastures and drinking water. In the deserts, proper rainfall is sporadic in time and place, and movement is less ordered, but by no means aimless. In both types of migration tribal groups keep to prescribed territory, and only in years of drought do they enter the grazing areas of their neighbors.

Livestock play a vital role in national economy of Pakistan. At present, they are contributing about 49.1 per cent of agricultural value added and 11.4 per cent to the GDP (Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2003 2004).

Sulfee (1987) in his thesis “ground water studies of Cholsitan desert” studied the ground water of Cholistan and suggested that in Cholistan, major aquifer is sand bounded with thick clay layers. The main factors affecting infiltration rate in the area are surface scaling, soil compaction and salts. Soil compaction is due to over grazing, wind erosion and salts, which makes a crust that seals the soil surface to restrict the downward movement of water. There is no clay or other impervious material at the top of the ground water. Therefore, ground water levels are free to rise or fall. Ground water is found at depth of 20 to 30 meter below the land surface. The investigation has revealed that the alluvium, encountered with in the explored depth is mainly composed of sand, fine to very fine silt with subordinate deposits of clay beds.

The livestock is the main wealth of Cholistani herders, and the main production system is Transhumant in which livestock is migrated to flood plains/ irrigated areas during fodder scarcity period, however, very few cattle and about 50 percent of goats and 95 percent of camels usually stay permanently in the desert throughout the year except for unusual drought (FAO 1993).Ajmal (1998) in his article “Sustainable Development Of Desert Communities Through Natural Resources - Problems And Recommendations For Cholistan Desert, Pakistan” revealed that the vegetation is the most important for the livestock of Cholsitan because it constitutes the main source of fodder for animals. Most of the Cholistan is covered by sand dunes. Fortunately, a wide range of nutritious and drought tolerant species of grasses, shrubs and trees exist in this territory. Phyto-geographically, the vegetation of Cholistan belongs to the Nubo-Sindhian province of Sudanian region (Baig et.al 1980) and is typical of arid regions.

Amna (1987) in her thesis “Nomads of Cholistan” wrote “we can say that the movement of desert nomads is forced movements. Transhumance of nomads in dry lands is controlled by significant set of pull and push factors. The pull factors are water and forage, where as push factors are droughts, disease and hazards”.

The total human population of Cholistan desert is around 0.18 million (CDA, 2005). The economy of the region is predominantly pastoral. People have practiced a nomadic life style for centuries. The nomads own large herds of camels, cattle, sheep and goats. The open and continuous grazing system is prevalent in Cholistan desert. The pastoralists graze their livestock in their self-defined territories around their water points locally known as ‘tobas' for most part of the year. They are compelled to take their livestock out of the desert range area in the drought period, which is usually pre-monsoon summer period i.e. April to July each year. During this part of the year the 'Tobas' dry up, water of wells go saline to the extent that livestock refuses to accept it any more, grasses vanish and fodder becomes scarce leaving no option except to migrate.

According to Poschel (2002) Nomadism in Cholistan is surviving from prehistoric times. The archaeologists have classified the 54 sites of the Hakra Wares as camps. Camps are sites represented by a lighter scatter of pottery without a build up an archaeological ridden. These settlements were located on the old alluvium of Cholistan as well as in stabilized sandy areas. These sites seem to be representing the seasonal monsoon abodes of pastoralist who came into cholistan to maintain their animals. The presence of so many camps testifies to the importance of pastorlaism in the time of the Hakra wares.

There is enormous variability in herd management strategies, social organization and degree of mobility. According to Spooner (1973), there are no features of cultural or social organization common to all nomads or even that occur exclusively among nomads.

Farooq (2001) in his thesis “Socio-economic Dimensions and Ecological destruction in Cholsitan” discussed the over exploitation of resources due to livestock farming as “Whatever the clan movements or social structure their present management system appears to make little deliberate provision for conservation of the health pastures by resting or other methods. The consequences have been:

A reduction in the abundance of palatable species, especially grasses.

Overall severe loss of vegetation cover in areas surroundings habitations and tobas with in radius of 1 Km.

Poor conditions in cattle, for those pastoralists who do not own irrigated or other land,

Reduced habitat opportunities for wild life”

Pastoralism is an effective means of exploiting marginal environments, such as arid grasslands of the tropics or the tundra taiga ecosystems of the north. In these environments, the amount of energy fixed by plants via photosynthesis is low (Begon et al., 1990), and the dominant plants are generally poor food sources for humans. The pastoral subsistence economy provides an adaptation to such conditions since it promotes the conversion of low quality plant resources into portable, high quality foods. However, the overall low level of energy availability necessitates low population density and high mobility among pastoral populations.

Barfield (1993) in his classic volume on pastoral nomads divided Old World pastoral societies into five distinct zones, each with its own unique style of animal husbandry, ecology, and social organization.

Younas (1997) in his article “Feed resources of livestock in the Punjab, Pakistan” explored that grazing of livestock is the most common and the biggest profession among the desert communities. Major part of their income comes from sale of livestock and their products. Economic uplift of these communities, therefore, largely depends on livestock production, which in turn depends on amount of forage available for the livestock round the year. Ruthless exploitation of natural resources i.e. overgrazing due to overstocking coupled with rapid deforestation has enhanced the rate of desertification and consequently production of food, forage, fuel wood and timber has drastically reduced in most of the deserts.

While studying the DASANETCH tribes in Ethiopian lands, Claudia J. Carr (1977) explains the movement of tribes as “Wet and dry seasons correspond with wide variations in pasturage and browse, available water, and certain disease organisms. The importance of small, unreasonable rains as well as the small and large rainy seasons can be easily appreciated when one considered both the opening up of grazing land otherwise inaccessible because of lack of water, and the fresh growth or grass and browse more generally. Even a small rain during the dry season may produce fresh grass and some standing water in a locality, and a very large cluster of villages and camps may therefore arrive there almost overnight.”

According to Amber (1998), in recent times, pastoralism has been practiced mainly in grasslands and other in semi-arid habitats that are not especially suitable for cultivation without some significantly technological input such as irrigation. Most pastoralists are nomadic, moving camp frequently to find water and new pasture for their herds. But other pastoralists have somewhat more sedentary lives – they may move from one settlement to another in different seasons, or they may send some people out to travel with the herds in different seasons. Pastoral communities are usually small, consisting of a group of related families. Individuals or families may own their own animals but decision about when and where to move the herds are community decisions.

The transhumant system comprises the largest number of immigrating livestock and is characterized by mass movement, including people (Arshad et al., 1999).

Farooq (2005) in his article “Agro-pastoral system in Cholistan” discussed in detail the movement of livestock farmers. According to him, “Patterns of movement are location specific and dictated by a traditional system of land tenure. In July/August, movement is from irrigated and riverine areas to traditionally owned “tobas” in lesser or greater Cholistan. The distances covered by the nomads vary from 10 to more than 100 Kilometers.” Several tobas belonging to the same clan may be located with in one-kilometer radius.

Yee (1987) suggested in his thesis “Planning for Livestock farming in Hong Kong” that the livestock farming does occupy a significance position in food market despite its small share in GDP. So the survival of the livestock should no longer be neglected. It is suggested to focus on the issues of financial assistance levels, planning control and promotion of agribusiness.


The objectives of proposed study are as follows:

To investigate the distribution and location of livestock farming in Cholistan.

To evaluate the development process of livestock in Cholistan.

To examine the socio- economic setup and spatial characteristics of pastoralists.

To explore the main hurdles in livestock breeding in proposed study area.

To find and locate the rainwater harvesting sites for the promotion of livestock farming in Cholistan.

To examine the causes of over-exploitation of natural resources with reference to livestock farming in Cholistan.

To investigate the possibility of new livelihood projects that could provide incomes in drought prone areas of Cholistan.


Geography has a long tradition of attempting to understand how different processes and phenomena interact in regions and localities, including an understanding of how these interactions give places their distinctive character. The present study hopes to be important by following ways:

This study will provide an effective participation at the local, national and regional levels of non- governmental organizations and local populations, particularly resource users, including farmers and pastoralists and their representative organizations, in policy planning, decision-making, and implementation and review of national action programmes.

As the study area is totally ignored by scholars, so this study will be fruitful for livestock development and management according to water and pastures resources.

This research will helpful for future planners and community development programmers.

This study will provide a structural set of data for future planning and management of resources.

This study will be helpful in Establishment and/or strengthening, as appropriate, of food security systems, including storage and marketing facilities, particularly in rural areas.

This study will be useful to investigate the problems faced by livestock and cattle breeders in cholistan desert.

This study will reveal and investigate the milk and meat potential in the desert.


The present study will be completed in one year as follows:

During the first year related literature of the study will be studies and analyzed. The literature may relate to the study area, about the transhumance pattern of movement, distribution of nomads and water resources will be sited thoroughly.

During the second year, data will be obtained form various primary and secondary sources having ability of statistical treatment and requirements of the study. A sample survey of some selected permanent and semi-permanent places of the Cholistan desert will be conducted through reliable research instruments and highly structured information will be obtained form a large sample of respondents with the help of interviews, questionnaires and personal observations. Computer techniques and quantitative techniques will be used for the processing and treatment of data and to construct tables and figures.

During the first half of third year, data will be treated with the help of different statistical techniques and formulae. Maps and diagrams will also be drawn to observe the distribution of livestock resources. In the second half of third year, analysis, interpretations and conclusions will be made and given the shape of a valuable thesis.


This study will be conducted in a geographical framework. All physical, social, economic and environmental conditions will be brought under observation. Primary data will be collected through certain questionnaire to collect the basic and primary information about livestock and dairy sites in Cholistan. All livestock reserves of Cholistan will be classified according to breeds and will be located on different maps by the help of modern GIS techniques e.g. different mapping techniques like Map Info ver. 8.1, Arc View GIS 9.1, Arc GIS 9.1. As focusing numerous statistical variables different statistical techniques will be used with the help of computer software like SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences) to achieve the objectives of the study.

Reliance will also be placed on the secondary data published by various governmental, semi-governmental and other organizations with individual research reports and articles. The following will be the main sources of data for the present study:

Primary Data Collected by Field Survey

Population Census Reports

Punjab Development Statistics (various volumes)

Economic Survey of Pakistan (different volumes and statistical supplements)

Pakistan Statistical Yearbooks (various volumes)

Reports and data collected by Cholistan Development Authority

Reports and research paper of Desert Study Centre, Islamia University Bahawalpur

Research paper and data published by Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources

Journals and research reports published by Population Census Organization, Statistics Division, Govt. of Pakistan,

Journals, research reports and data sheets published by United Nations.

GIS techniques will also be used to show spatial trends and patterns of livestock distribution and dairy development sites in Cholistan desert.

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