The centuries old rich camel heritage of Cholistan with the Marrecha tribe of camels is under threat.
A precious camel heritage of Marrecha in Cholistan desert is at risk. This brief study tells, how this beautiful culture is eroding because of the negligence of the policymakers. It is very crucial to involve the native livestock keepers in policies regarding research and development of the region but unfortunately, it is happening the otherwise. ♠♠♠♥♥
Where is the Cholistan Desert?
Having seen many deserts of the world, I’m quite sure that Cholistan desert is one of the most beautiful and living deserts of the world. No doubt, it is a desert but acts as a food bucket (animal origin) for the country since ages. The commune of the Cholistan is called Rohila and the tribe rearing camel is called Marrecha. This cherished desert is situated in the South–West of Punjab province (Pakistan) and is spread over an area of 26,000 square kilometers. It is located between latitudes of 27° to 42° and 29°N and longitude of 57° to 60°E. The length of the desert is about 480 Km and breadth is from 32 to 192 Km.
The Ecosystems and the Camel Adaptation
The Pakistani camel breeds are highly diversified at inter and intra breed basis Rapid change of strategy is necessary for development of dromedary camel pastoralism in the Cholistan desert of Pakistan and found in different ecological zones of the country. Each breed/type has its own uniqueness and usefulness based on the breeding goals of the relevant breeding community. Cholistani pastoralists (Rohila or Marreche) predominantly keep the highly adapted desert camel Marrecha (gets its name from Marrecha tribe). The Marrecha breeders have their own native wisdom and knowledge of conservation and management of animal genetic resources.
The Marrecha Camel
The Marrecha breeders have their own native wisdom and knowledge of conservation and management of animal genetic resources. The Marrecha commune living in the deep desert works as an institution, treasured with precious knowledge of the ecosystems, available natural resources, especially vegetation, biological and natural health, animal breeding and survival and resilience in climate change scenario.
The Marreche Institutions and the Camel Genetic Resources
The Marreche breeders are color sensitive as in the other parts of the world. They only consider a camel Marrecha if it has coat color from sandy, blackish brown to light brown. CAMEL REARING IN CHOLISTAN DESERT OF PAKISTAN. The pastoralists have a very clear stance on the breeds and the special traits which they use as their basic breeding goals.
Marrecha herders’ top priority (breeding goal) is to produce pack camels for transportation of goods and families in the desert. They consider the hardiness, intelligence, and obedience as important but special traits for their camels. Along with the special traits, they use phenotypic traits as the markers of the genetic potential and adaptation to the deserted ecosystem. These animals are lightly built, medium sized with a medium head which is carried on a lean long beautifully curved neck Dancing Marrecha Camel of Cholistan Pakistan. Some of the phenotypic traits are listed below.
- The flat and wide foot pad (walking ability in desert)
- The mouth is small with tight lips
- prominent round bright eyes, and narrow muzzle
- Long eyelashes and long hair on the ears and neck
- lean long beautifully curved neck covered with long hair
- small ear (Rabbit like) with dense air like brush
- The legs are thinner but strong, fine and well shaped
- the cylindrical body
- Medium head with a protruded nose
The Output Potential and the Worth of the Marrecha Camel
- As a riding/packed Animal: Marrecha camels are fine, fast and gracious looking, so they are called the riding camels. Marrecha can travel from 100 to 125 Km/ day at a high speed of 20-25 Km per hour. As a pack animal, it can transport 300 to 400 kg weight and can travel up to 50 km/day.
- As a Milk Animal: Milk production is the secondary job of the Marrecha camel. Because of its highly adapted nature, it produces milk in harsh conditions with high ambient temperatures and scarcity of feed and water. These characteristics of the Marrecha camel enable camel herders to live and stay deep in the desert and depend on the camel milk for food. The Marrecha pastoralists have an average herd size of 37 camels, majority female (20-25% lactating camels) Marrecha camel of Cholistan Desert. A good Marrecha camel can produce up to 10 milk/day and produces up to 250 days in the ordinary grazing management in the desert. A lactation yield of 1500 kg is expected from an average lactating camel in the desert of Cholistan.
The Camel Heritage is sinking here…
The Marrecha pastoralists are facing the burden of constraints with a complex nature. Here the problems are presented in the bullets below.
- Contrast to other deserts, the Cholistan is squeezing in size and the grazing lands are shrinking
- The land right/grazing rights are not honored and the land grabbing is mounting with each moment of the time
- The influentials from other regions and provinces allow the grazing lands of the pastoralists and shoot the camels entering in the allotted lands
- Unfortunately, Cholistan desert is exactly situated along the world’s complex border between Pakistan and India
- The movement restriction among the pastoralists on both sides of the border is resulting in the deterioration of the Marrecha breed because of the stipulation of the crossbreeding with other desert types of camels (Bikaneri and Jaisalmeri).
- The region is one of the hot spots of the climate change which embracing the pastoralists with the complex challenges, especially new and fatal diseases.
- The policy makers avoid engaging the pastoralists in policies, resulting in the Cholistan into the graveyard of the failed project.
Ecological zones of Balochistan province of Pakistan
The ecological zones already presented in the literature are based on the agronomic prcatices, temperature, rainfall etc. In the present study the ecological zones were sketched on the basis of the local penology, type and production systems of livestock, temperature, rainfall etc. It was revealed that there are six ecological zones for livestock rather than four revealed by literature (Source: National Master Agricultural Research Plan, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council).
The following ecological zones were revealed in the province.
1. Suleiman Mountainous Region (SMR)
This region includes Dera Bugti, Kohlu, Barkhan, part of Loralai and Zhob, Musakhail and Sherani districts of the province. The Suleiman mountain series is located south to north and bordering between Punjab and Balochistan province. The region has rich culture and is the historic homeland of Pashtoon. The climate of the region is mild in summer because of the high altitude and rains in monsoon time. The temperature reaches to 32 C° in summer and drops below zero in winter. Some parts, especially the peaks of the mountains are very cold in winter. The annual precipitation ranges from 300-600 mm per year and the main source of rain is monsoon (GOB, 1999). Some areas receive snow and rains in winter also.
The SMR is the home tract of a wide plant biodiversity and the the vegetation of the region comprises trees like Zizyphus nummolaria (Karkana), Ziz. mauritiana (ber), Z. sativa (Helani), Oleao ferruginea (Showan), Oleao officinalus (showan), pistacia cabulica (wanna), tamarix indica (Ghaz), Prunus eburnean (Zarga, zangli badam) and salvadora oleoides (pilu or perpegh). Bushes of the regions are as fallowing. Haloxylon recurvum (Ghelmi), nannorhops ritchieana (Mazari or Pish), Caragana ambigua (makhie), alhagi camelorum, (Aghzai or Tindan) and periploca aphylla (Barar). The grasses include stipa capillata (Saba), cocculus leæba (Parwatgi), sorghum halepense (Barawa), allium sphærocephalum (khokhae) and Atriplex canescens (sargarae). Livestock agriculture is the centuries old occupation of the inhabitants. The region has wide biodiversity of livestock species and breeds. The major livestock breeds are as following.
Camel; Kohi, cattle; Kohi-Suleiman or Lohani, donkey; Shinghari and Sperki or Pidie, horse; Balochi, sheep; Kakari, Musakhaili, Kajjale and Bybrik and goat; Kohi Suleimani. The tribes of the region are Kakar, Sherani, Mandokhail, Babar, Harifal, Musakhail, Zamari, Marghzani, Essot, Jaffar, Buzdar, Syed, Kethran, Hasni, Mari, Zarkoon and Bugti.
2. Northern highlands (NHL)
This region includes hitoric Kakar Khurasan, Loralai, Zirat, Zhob, Pishin, Qillaabdullah and Quetta vallies. The region falls in the north of the province bordering Afghanistan. The area has very cold winter usually dry. The summers had been mild but some herders beleive that the temperature has been increased during the last few years. This region is severely affected and the rangelands are degraded due to many reasons, i.e. influx of Afghan Migrants, over population, deforestation and the long prevailed drought (1994-2004). The climate of the region is mild in summer because of the high altitude and some eastern part of the region receives rains in monsoon time. The temperature reaches to 30 C° in summer and drops below zero in winter. The region is the coldest region of the province. The annual precipitation ranges from 250-600 mm per anum and mostly receives in winter in form of snow (GOB, 1999).
the major vegetation of the region comprises trees like Zizyphus nummolaria, Oleao ferruginea, Oleao officinalus, pistacia cabulica, Prunus eburnean, Tamarax aphylla, Juniporis excels and Pinus Geranandiana. The bushes are the major feed of camel and comprises of Haloxylon recurvum, nannorhops ritchieana, Caragana ambigua, alhagi camelorum, and periploca aphylla. The grasses include stipa capillata, cocculus leæba, sorghum halepense, allium sphærocephalum, and Atriplex canescens. The region has wide livestock biodiversity of livestock species and breeds. The major livestock breeds are, camel; Raigi, cattle; Kohi Suleimani, donkey; Shinghari and Sperki or Pidie, sheep; Kakari, Dumeri or Hernai, Gosalli or Kajalle, and goat; Khurasani and Kohi Suleimani. The tribes of the region are Kakar, Pani, Achakzai, Tareen, Syed, Ghilzai, and Barraich.
3. Central Brahvi Highlands (CBH)
This region comprises Mastung, Kalat, Khuzdar, mountainous part of Dhadar and Awaran districts of Balochistan province. The region is characterized by high and arid mountains with very hot summers and very cold winters. The temperature may reach to 49 C° in summer and fall below zero in winter. The rainfall of the region is low and erratic (100-200 mm per year) (GOB, 1999). The vegetation of the region consists of Tamarix, Halloxylon grifithii, Alhaji camelorum, Sacharum revanae, Chrysopogon aucheri, C. mantanus, C. schoenanthus, Cenchrus ciliaris and Pannisetum orientale. The livestock breeds of the region are Brahvi camel, Mangeli sheep and Lehri goat. The tribes of the region are Maingul, Samalani, Zehri, Raesani, Bangulzai, Lehri, Rakhshani, Bezenjo, Bajoi, Lango, Muhammad Shahi, Dehwar, Kurd, shahwani, Gichki, Mirwani, Muhammad Hasani and Gurgnari.
4. Kachhi Basin Region
This region comprises of Sibi, part of Dhadar, Jaffarabad, Naseerababd, Lehri and Jhal Magsi locale of the province. The region is plain area, formed of alluvial soil and slopes from north to south with an elevation of about 50 to 100 meters above sea level. The climate of the region is hot and becomes extremely hot and humid in summer. The harshness of summer is prolonged over the months of May, June, July, August, September, and October. It is mildly hot in April. Summer begins from mid March and lasts to the end of October. In winters the weather is pleasant all over the district. It lasts from December to January. The months of April, November and February are pleasant. The humidity is highest in summer, particularly in the area adjacent to the Pat feeder canal, where rice cultivation takes place. The type of vegetation in the region includes Spicigra (Kandi), Capparis Aphylla (Kirar), Salvadora Olevides (Khabbar), Sisyphus jujuba (Bari) and Calotropis Gi Gantea (Ak). The breeds of livestock are the famous Bhagnari cattle, Berberi goat, Balochi sheep and Aseel chicken. The tribes of the region, in the north there are Pani and Kakar Pashtoon tribes and in the south is Rind, Lehri, Somro, Bugti, Mari, Khoso, Jamali, Jatoi and Resai.
5. Chaghai Kharan Desert (CKD)
Chaghai Kharan is one of the famous ecological zones of the country and comprises of the districts Chaghai, Kharan, Noshki, Washuk and part of Makran. The region is unique of its kind and mostly comprised of disserted plains, steppe and mountainous desert. The region is located in the extreme west of Pakistan bound on the north by the desert region (Raig) of Afghanistan. The region is hyper dry and receives very less precipitation in winter and spring from the Mediterranean winds and very rare rains in the summer. The temperature of the region crosses the digit of 40 in the months of June, July and August. The summers are very hotter with minimum rainfall, which worsen the situation more. The region is home tract of many herbal plants and bushes which are being use for grazing of livestock especially camel and goat since unknown times. The speedy deforestation of those bushes, long drought and over grazing had adverse the condition of the region and its ecological landscape diversity is under threat.
The major vegetation includes tree species like Khanjak, (Pistecia Khanjak), Ghaz (Tamarix Articula), shrub like Taghaz (Haloxylon Amodendron), bushes like Hashwarg (Rhozya Stricta), Pog (Calegnum Polygonaides) Cotor (Stockcia Brohinca), Lara (Salsola Kali), Kandar (Alhogi Camelarum), Barshonk, Karwankush, Narronk (Salsola Arbuscula), Tusso (Gaillaina Aucheri) and grasses like Mughair (Atriplex Dimprphostegium), Kash (Sacchorum Siliare), Righith (Suoeda Monica) Shanaluk (Allium Rubellum). The breeds of the region are Kharani camel, Khurasani and Morak goat and Rakhshani sheep. The tribes of the region are Badeni, Muhammad Hasani, Maingul, Jamaldini, Sasoli, Sanjrai, Nothezi, Nausherwani, Malangzai, Siafad, Faqirzai and Hajizai.
6. Balochistan Coastal Region (BCR)
The region is comprised of Lasbella and Makran locale of the region. The climate of the region is hot and humid. The temperature reaches to 40 °C in summer and reaches to 6 °C in winter. The annual rainfall is very low and precipitates about 125 mm per year.
The extensive plains have vast area of sparse vegetation which includes plants species like Salsola sp., Panicum antidotale, Alerupus repens, A. macrstachyus, Cnechrus ciliaris, C. pennisetiformis, C. religerus, C. biflrus besides there are Prosopis cineraria, Salvadora oleoides, Capparis aphylla, Zizyphus sp and Prosopis juliflora. The breeds of the region are Lassi camel and Balochi sheep. The tribes of the region are Lassi, Bizenjo, Jam, Somro, Khoso and Jamali.
The Southern hemisphere of the planet earth is the cradle of animal domestication and almost all the livestock species for food and agriculture traveled from South to North. During the last 100 years, gene flows from South to North have been dwarfed by flows in the opposite direction, from North to South. Large numbers of animals, semen, embryos, and eggs are shipped to developing countries, and Northern breeds (particularly of pigs, poultry, and dairy cattle) have become firmly established in various countries. This development led to the erosion of livestock biodiversity in the South
The state of the world is very critical and the time is reached to stand and ask for change. Millions of dollars are spending on wars and much more goes in the oven of bankruptcy. Industrialization/privatization is the third sword hanging on the head of humanity. This entire situation created an evil triangle which resulted in poverty, malnutrition, hunger, jobs losses, wars, and many other consequences. This evil triangle is now going a step forward for future food control. To do this, a complex state of the situation is created in the form of stealing genes (biopiracy), patents for genes, so-called gene banks, GMO, BT, and promotion & backing for the promotion of industrialized breeds.
The situation is even more than nastiest. Local verities of seed, capable of combating climate change and resist droughts are pushed towards extinct with the evil mind of money hungry industrialized seed multinational companies. BT cotton is causing havoc losses to local biodiversity and now the weed control is near to impossible. Such act as backing and promotion of exotic verities pushed smallholders at stake and hunger increased manifold beside the so-called green revolution. Ban Genetically Modified FoodThe green revolution no doubt increased food production but at the cost of human health, environment, and biodiversity. Blind use of fertilizers, pesticides, weedicides, antibiotics, artificial colors and synthetic hormones created a situation of complex human health and many more new diseases introduced. Actually, green revolution was meant to destroy the resilience of local communities to climate change and drought which ultimately depend on the multinationals. Added benefits of reducing meat and dairy consumptionThis phenomenon resulted in giving food control in the hand of multinational.
If we talk about livestock biodiversity, the situation is very fragile and millions of smallholders are deprived of their precious indigenous livestock breeds and pushed in the hell of poverty and hunger. Millions of small livestock keepers, especially pastoralists in the South (underdeveloped part of the world, especially dry lands) depend on indigenous livestock breeds for their survival. People and Animal Agriculture~The Philosophy of the Low Carbon Livestock
Also, these small farmers and pastoralists are the custodian of precious livestock biodiversity in their habitats and ecosystems. Their livestock breeds depend on very marginal lands for grazing which has no other use. Livestock production systems of such farmers need very low or even zero inputs, therefore, their share in climate change is very limited. The keepers of the breeds continuously evolve their breeds with the help of their indigenous knowledge in tune with environmental changes and consumer demands. My Philosophy of Sustainability — Camel, food security and climate change
The Southern hemisphere of the planet earth is the cradle of animal domestication and almost all the livestock species for food and agriculture traveled from South to North. During the last 100 years, gene flows from South to North have been dwarfed by flows in the opposite direction, from North to South. Large numbers of animals, semen, embryos, and eggs are shipped to developing countries, and Northern breeds (particularly of pigs, poultry, and dairy cattle) have become firmly established in various countries. This development led to the erosion of livestock biodiversity in the South.Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine | Full text | Ethnoveterinary treatments by dromedary camel herders in the Suleiman Mountainous Region in Pakistan: an observation and questionnaire study
The influx of high performing genotypes into existing breeds has always been an important component in developing and improving breeds. In the history of all species investigated, gene flow has contributed significantly to diversity. In population genetics, migration is an important source of genetic variability. But the international exchange of genetic material (North to South) from a decreasing number of sires (bulls) increasingly loses genetic variation with global impacts for developed and developing countries.FAO Press releases on AnGR
This flow of gene (breeds) is very unnatural and has environmental consequences. Such breeds need very high inputs of energy in the form of acclimatizing housing and feeding high energy and protein levels. Also, according to a study, naturally the flora and fauna species travel from south to north to cope with the climate change. In this context, this is an opportunity for southern breeds to flow towards the north and that is very natural. Hence supporting gene flow from north to south is very stupid and wasting the money of the western taxpayer in the form of subsidies to the breeders of the North.
The northern governments subsidize livestock exports by their banking system, while the South has furthered the import of exotic genetic materials, for example by offering livestock keepers credit, services, and subsidized feed. Southern governments tend to favor livestock industrialization at the expense of smallholder producers. International agreements regulating agricultural trade are likely to enhance the intensification of livestock production and increase gene flows to the South.
North breeds not only alter the breed diversity of the South but promotes a new culture of agricultural intensification and industrialization, leads to benefit the industries of developed countries. Such system is always dependent on foreign aids. The cash amount of aid usually goes into the pocket of corrupt officials and politicians and again transfers to the western banks. This is an evil cycle of money to exploit the small stockers of the south and narrow the diversity of the breeds.Turning Again to the Native Gene ~ Back to the Future
Failure of this system
- Breeds are neither suited for the new environment nor fits with the goals and strategies of the producers.
- Northern breeds are already very narrow within-breed diversity and very prone to the pest and diseases of the new environment.
- Such production systems need institutional and technical support to its producers which the developing countries seldom provide.
- Breeding decisions are increasingly taken out of the hands of farmers and herders. While relatively few Southern breeds have so far disappeared.
- They have been selected for high yields and require standardized conditions and high inputs to exploit their genetic potential.
- Exotic livestock breeds, especially poultry, and pig are in competition with the human population for food resources as they depend on the grains.
- According to data collected by the FAO, 18 % of the 740 farm animal breeds that were recorded as extinct were bred from the South
- However, among the breeds at risk, including the status endangered and critical, 60% are from the South and this proportion is expected to increase.
- However, if the risk factors “change of husbandry”, “expansion of large-scale intensive livestock production” or “people giving up herding or farming” are taken into account, then the South could become the hotspot of breed loss of the 21st century.
- Southern governments need to recognize their contribution to breed development and secure their access to grazing and water, services and education.
In short, the time is reached to raise voice against the gene piracy and future food control. The planet is mother earth for all. Let stop playing with nature to earn money and fattening banks. Let raise our voice against manipulating genetic makeup of flora and fauna. Gene patient is one the dangerous weapon to control the state of future food. Gene is the creature of nature and our mother earth. No way to the patent gene.
Right, the based approach is the best tool in the present political situation of the world. Every individual and living organism have the right to survival. Let’s stop depriving small-scale farmers of their right. Let them survive and keep their system continue to produce healthy and natural food.
LIFE Network has introduced the livestock keeper’s rights. Join our hands and support the rights of livestock keepers. Here is the link to details of the livestock keeper’s rights.