Here we briefly introduce the first group of research papers launched on the SpringerOpen online website. There are five papers all set in Asia, spanning not only very dissimilar environments and peoples - mountains and deserts of Pakistan, tropical plains of India, cold desert Tibetan plateau - but including a paper on the pre-history of pastoralism in the Eurasian steppes. This assembly of papers well represents the broad concerns of the Journal, with contributions from practitioners as well as academics, and covering diverse disciplines from animal science, archaeology, forestry, geography, grassland science, socio-economics, and veterinary science.
Several general points arise from these articles. Two of the papers (Kumar et al. and Ptackova) discuss the consequences of sedentarisation - settling down of previously mobile pastoralists. In a case from the southern India semi-arid grasslands, over a century and half former mobile pastoralists acquired secure land rights and have spontaneously developed a form of rotational grazing, using live fences and supplementary feeding, which results in a stable form of settled pastoralism. The Tibetan nomads of western China are only now being settled through government-sponsored programmes, and are losing their communal grazing land rights while gaining modern housing and social benefits. The consequences for their pastoralist production and social systems are as yet barely known.
The paper by ur-Rahim et al. about a region in the Hindu Kush mountains of Pakistan draws out the entangled effects of government forestry interventions and central government land tenure reforms on political control, inter-ethnic relations and access to fodder trees by multiple different user groups. The introduction of exotic tree species and transference of property usage rights from mobile pastoralists to sedentary landlords has left mobile pastoralists the losers. The authors offer practical recommendations for re-introducing nutritionally-valuable indigenous fodder tree species.
In the hot dry plains of Pakistan, several pastoralist groups raise two breeds of camels, each with distinctive physiological and economically important attributes - for racing, milking, meat and transport. The paper by Kakar et al. provides a description of these two breeds, and argues that the breeds are under threat as their pastoralist owners are losing access to grazing lands due to encroachment of irrigated cotton and cereal farming by wealthy outsiders to this desert region. The authors end by proposing development measures which could uphold the role of the camel breeds and support the pastoralist societies.
Pastoralism has deep roots into pre-history, which can only be understood through archeological investigations, as shown in the paper by Bendrey. In one of the geographical origins of pastoralism - the Eurasian steppe - there is great variability in the environmental and biological factors which can affect the predominance of the main domestic livestock species of cattle, sheep/goats and horses. The author concludes that "comparison of the later prehistoric animal bone assemblages and the modern and historic livestock herd compositions... show a number of consistencies indicating the strong influence of the environment on the pastoral economies practiced across the Eurasian steppe".
In this collection of research articles, while one paper (Bendrey) informs us about the origins of pastoralism in Asia many millennia ago, another (Ptackova) tells us about the probable extinction of at least one pastoral mode - Tibetan nomads in China - which is happening right now.
Inam-ur-Rahim, Daniel Maselli, Henri Rueff, Urs Wiesmann, Indigenous fodder trees can increase grazing accessibility for landless and mobile pastoralists in northern Pakistan
Abdul Raziq Kakar, Kerstin de Verdier and Muhammad Younas, Rapid change of strategy is necessary for development of dromedary camel pastoralism in the Cholistan desert of Pakistan
Jarmila Ptackova, Sedentarisation of Tibetan nomads in China: Implementation of the Nomadic settlement project in the Tibetan Amdo area; Qinghai and Sichuan Provinces
Robin Bendrey, Some like it hot: environmental determinism and the pastoral economies of the later prehistoric Eurasian steppe
Anil Kumar, S. Natarajan, N.B. Biradar and B. K. Trivedi, Evolution of sedentary pastoralism in south India: case study of the Kangayam grassland