The Banni Grassland…
The Banni grassland in the Kachchh District of Gujarat is an area of 2500 km2and is often referred to as the largest tropical grassland in Asia. The Banni is home to great biological diversity, having 37 grass species, 275 bird species, and domesticated animals, like Banni Buffalo, Kankrej Cattle, Sheep & Goat, Horses and Camel, as well as wildlife. Banni grassland also support at least three species of threatened plants, three species of reptiles, five species of birds and five species of mammals. Banni Grassland having numerous large, medium and small sized wetlands attracts migratory birds to breed and rest in winter. 380 km2of the Kachchh Desert Wildlife Sanctuary and the recently (2008) notified 227 km2 ChhariDhand Conservation Reserve are part of the Banni Grassland.

The Banni is also home to 22 pastoralist communities, Maldharis, spread across 48 settlements in 19 Pachayat, and with a population of close to 40,000 people. The Maldharis rights to graze the Banni are derived from historical rulers of the region who granted these rights in return for a grazing tax. Today around 80,000 animals, mostly Banni buffalo and Kankrej cattle, graze in the Banni and close to 100,000 litres of milk are produced in the Banni every day. The region also serves as a breeding ground for the Banni buffalo and the Kankrej cow, for sale in many others parts of the country.

In the early 1960s, the Gujarat Forest Department planted Prosopis juliflora in 31,550 ha (~315 km2) of the Banni with a stated objective of minimizing the perceived threats of salinity ingress and desertification. Over the past 50 years Prosopis has spread from 315 km2 to close to 1500 km2 of the Banni. This expansion is thought to have taken place at the expense of palatable and perennial grass species. Although the mechanisms of such displacement are yet to be researched, the spread of Prosopis has had dramatic impacts on local livelihoods as well as on larger stakeholder perceptions of the Banni. The increase in Prosopis has been accompanied by a corresponding shift in livestock holdings from an animal population formerly dominated by the Kankrej cow to one now dominated by the Banni buffalo. This shift is linked by pastoralists to the changing vegetation of the region. Prosopis is also widely used by local communities to produce charcoal, and this charcoal is seen as a potential fuel to sustain power plants that are being set up on the edge of the Banni. Prosopis is therefore an important driver of ecological and economic change in the landscape, although many of these relationships remain unclear.

In addition to the introduction of Prosopis the Banni grassland has undergone other changes in the last 4-5 decades. In the 1960s, dams were built across the rivers flowing into the Banni, resulting in dramatically reduced “flushing” of the Banni, and a consequent increase in saline ingress from the neighbouring Arabian Sea. About 50 per cent of the Banni (about 1500 km2) is now highly saline, an undocumented, but likely, factor in shaping the landscape’s biophysical characteristics.
With support from Sahjeevan, an NGO working on environmental conservation and revival of traditional livelihoods , the pastoral communities of the Banni formed an organization called Banni Pashu Uchherak Maldhari Sangathan (Banni Breeders’ Association) in 2008. The objectives of the association were to revive the livestock economy of the region, register the Banni buffalo as a recognized breed, conserve the Banni grassland and protect their customary grazing rights. The Banni Breeders’ Association, in collaboration with State Department of Animal Husbandry, Government of Gujarat, Sahjeevan and Sardar Krushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University, submitted an application to the National Bureau of Animal Genetic Resources, the body responsible for recognition of breeds in India. In 2010, the Banni buffalo was successfully registered as India’s 11th buffalo breed, the first such incidence in India whereby a community that developed and conserved a breed was able to gain official recognition for what they have been doing for centuries.

For some more about the Banni

Link to videos about Banni

Maldhari Biocultural Community Protocol Photo Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMnonrrw1ms

Chetan Misher's video of the Spiny-tailed Lizard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7MX1YTDSv8

Unseen Landscapes Series https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JC_YL8kj-4

Sahjeevan's video Biodiversity Conservation by People in Kachchh https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vrsKOPM3gGc

D'source India's presentation Non-verbal codes of communication in Banni part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ra5ailHUbYQ

part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X8gdHEwLdEc

part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlgkwVxbn7E

part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IbLvR9LZAQY



Contact Information

Banni Research Centre,Hodko, Bhuj
E-mail: banniresearch@gmail.com