RAMBLE

The Banni grassland of Gujarat is the largest natural grassland in the Indian subcontinent, and an area that is both socio-culturally unique and ecologically valuable. The Banni has a long history of migratory pastoralism going back at least 500 years, and linking with a broader geographical landscape that included Sindh in Pakistan and even extended into parts of Baluchistan and Afghanistan.This physical link was truncated at the time of partition, with pastoral communities settling on either side of the India-Pakistan border.

Many factors have served to shape the Banni over time, including the damming of rivers that formerly drained the area of salt ingress from the neighbouring sea, the spread of Prosopis juliflora, a fast growing exotic that was planted in the hope it would keep both salinity and aridity at bay, and the continually varying composition and density of livestock that have grazed these grasslands for many centuries.

Overlain on these bio-physical processes are a range of social factors that shape the terms of pastoralist access to and use of the Banni. Among these are the twenty two ethnic communities that comprise the “maldhari” pastoralists whose livestock have grazed this landscape and whose institutions have determined the terms on which different communities have accessed different parts of the Banni. There is also continuing ambiguity with regard to the tenurial regime that regulates access to and use of the Banni, with the Forest Department, the Revenue Department and the Pastoralist Association claiming rights to and control over the Banni. There are therefore a set of competing visions for the use of this vast grassland, including as a grassland to be conserved for its unique biodiversity, as a ecosystem that has sustained, and should continue to sustain, an extensive, wide-ranging animal husbandry; and as an area that produces charcoal in support of power-plants being set up on the edge of the Banni.

RAMBLE was established to study the social and ecological transformations in the Banni and help answer some of the difficult questions around land use and management. RAMBLE is an open researcher platform where scholars can undertake disciplinary and inter-disciplinary research on various aspects of the Banni grassland ecosystem, its pastoral communities and their interaction with the Banni grassland. Research is expected to help nuance our understanding of the ecological, institutional and socio-economic drivers that have helped shape this ecosystem. Ultimately, such understanding is expected to feed into ongoing policy dialogue with regard to the future management and use of the Banni.

A fully functional field station supports field work and researchers of all disciplines are invited to collaborate with RAMBLE, or initiate independent research within the broadly defined research agenda.

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Contact Information

Pankaj Joshi
Banni Research Centre,Hodko, Bhuj