High Altitude Pasturelands of Kashmir Himalaya: Current Status, Issues and Future Strategies in a Changing Climatic Scenario
Current Journal of Applied Science and Technology,
Background: Climate change mitigation and adaptation has become unavoidable globally and different land use management systems have to be managed accordingly on sustainable basis. In Jammu and Kashmir, livestock sector is emerging as important growth leverage to state economy and its share to gross state domestic product is also increasing. Census figures 2011 signify that about 73% of the population lives in rural areas and are associated with agriculture and allied sectors including livestock rearing as main occupation.
Livestock Issues: It is estimated that livestock and its derived foods and other products contributed about 6.13% to the GSDP in the year 2010-11. Grasslands produce forage for domestic livestock, which in turn support human livelihoods with meat, milk, wool, and leather products. Livestock sector engages sizeable number of working force not only in rearing of animals but also in processing, transportation and sale of the animal products. However, the productivity of livestock in this north western Himalayan region is low. There is no shortcut to sustain livestock husbandry, without focusing the issues related to the development of fodder and feed resources.
Forage Factor: Livestock production is more efficient from cultivated fodder than from the degraded grazing lands but unfortunately fodder cultivation has remained static and less than 4% arable land in J&K is devoted to fodder production. The major challenge is to bridge the gap between forage production and requirement. The state produces around 64 lakh MT of green fodder and 35 lakh MT of dry fodder. However the requirement of green is 139.13 lakh MT and dry is 58.53 lakh MT. Therefore, increased production of fodder is essential to meet the nutritional requirements of the livestock. Crop residues, tree leaf fodder and grazing from alpine and sub-alpine pastures, forests and other grazing lands form the bulk of animal feeding requirements in the state. The possibility of increased forage production by bringing additional area under fodder cultivation are limited and it is therefore, imperative that continuous efforts are made to enhance forage resource availability from high altitude pasturelands through scientific management.
Future Strategies: Despite having more than 75% of the total Himalayan alpine area in the state, the high grazing pressure and lack of adoption of any scientific management practices is resulting in their degradation which is adversely affecting the herbage production and in turn the livestock productivity. The production potential of these temperate grazing lands has shown a gradual decline on account of unrestricted grazing, infestation of weeds, presence of undesirable and unpalatable species and encroachment. These pastures are not at an optimum level of production. Maintaining a productive pastoral production system is dependent on sustainable and efficient management of grasslands. By sustainable practices, mitigation and adaptation of climate change can also be achieved in this sector.