Biocultural Community Protocol of the Camel Pastoralists of Kachchh


This is a report written by the Kachchh Unt Uccherak Maldhari Sangathan (KUUMS), an association representing camel pastoralists in Gujarat’s Kachchh region, where they articulate the significance of their animals, culture, traditional knowledge, as well as their rights under national and international law.

The association works towards conserving camels and grazing grounds, improving their health, increasing the income of camel breeders and registering the Kharai camel – found in the district’s coastal region – as a distinct indigenous breed.

Published in the year 2013, the report identifies the challenges faced by the camel breeding community of Kachchh and sets forth a ‘biocultural community protocol’ for them. Through household surveys, focus group discussions, participatory mapping exercises and interviews with community members, the report elaborates on the various facets of life among the camel pastoralists, while also presenting a roadmap for the future. The survey covers 291 camel breeding households across eight talukas and includes members from the Jat, Rabari and Sama communities – the three main groups among the camel breeders of Kachchh, collectively referred to as maldhari.

This 68-page report is divided into 10 chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Our Culture (Chapter 2); Our Occupation (Chapter 3); Our Animals (Chapter 4); Our Traditional Knowledge of Camel Rearing (Chapter 5); Grazing Resources of Kachchh (Chapter 6); Challenges (Chapter 7); Our Rights Under Indian Laws and Policies (Chapter 8); Our Rights Under International Law (Chapter 9); We Call For and Commit to (Chapter 10).


  1. The camel pastoralist communities in Kachchh comprise of three main communities: Jat, Rabari and Sama. The report states that only 198 Rabari, 62 Jat and 13 Sama families continue to rear the animals in the region.

  2. The four main castes within the Jats are the Fakirani Jats, Daneta Jats, Hajiyani Jats and Garasiya Jats. The Fakirani and Hajiyani Jats traditionally earn their livelihoods through camel breeding, whereas the rest breed other animals as well. Members of the Jat community traditionally live in dwellings called pakkhas made of reed grass, jute ropes and wood. These are commonly constructed by the women, who also look after new-born camels and collect grass for fodder.

  3. The Rabari community leads a semi-nomadic lifestyle, where the men travel with camels for nearly eight months every year. The traditional dwellings of the Rabari community called bhungas are commonly made of wood, mud and grass.

  4. The maldharis usually live in houses that are easy to construct and require low investment to allow for their mobility across the district.

  5. The primary occupations among these pastoralist communities in Kachchh are camel breeding, and the sale of male camels and camel milk. Associated with the community goddess Momai Mataji, female camels are generally not sold in the market. Male camels, on the other hand, usually fetch around Rs. 10,000-15,000 each.

  6. Among the maldharis, a monthly income of Rs. 2,000-2,500 is sufficient to cover the needs of a family of five. This amounts to an annual income of Rs. 25,000-30,000. The report states that it is hard to achieve this through the sale of camels alone, depending on factors such as the size of the herd. This is pushing many herders to look for wage employment for sustenance.

  7. The two main breeds of camel reared in the region are the Kachchhi and Kharai. Kachchhi camels are generally found inland and form majority of the camel population in the region. They are commonly used for heavy and long-distance transportation as well as milk production. On the other hand, Kharai camels are found near the coast and are used for milk production, transportation and by the border security or police forces.

  8. Many among the community have begun rearing indigenous breeds of cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep, to diversify their herds.

  9. The grazing grounds for camels – which feed primarily on trees, shrubs and climbers – have reduced significantly over the last few decades. These grounds have increasingly been used by industries, agriculture. They have also been converted into sanctuaries or reserve forests such as the Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary and the Banni grasslands. The indiscriminate cutting of native trees – which otherwise serve as fodder for camels – to make charcoal, is another major reason for the shrinking grazing resources for camels.

  10. Since the Kachchh region borders Pakistan, long stretches of coastal areas have been declared sensitive regions controlled by the Border Security Force. This prevents the Kharai camel from entering the sea and reduces their grazing lands. This has led to a reduction in Kharai herds and in the shift away from camel breeding as a means of livelihood.

  11. The report presents comparative data of five villages in the Kachchh district between the years 1995-2012 to show the drastic decline in the number of camels in the region. During this period, the Kharai breed declined from 565 to 60 camels, while the Kachchhi breed declined from 2,135 to only 311.

  12. The report cites the Forest Rights Act, 2006 – which applies not only to Scheduled Tribes, but also to other traditional forest dwellers who are dependent on forest land to meet their basic needs – as an instrument recognising the rights of pastoralists to access forest land.

  13. The camel pastoralists of Kachchh, through this report, demand rights to govern, protect, manage and conserve lands that traditionally belong to them; to access grazing resources and control their traditional grazing lands; to be included in in-situ conservation projects, which preserve biodiversity within natural habitats; and to share benefits from the sale of camel milk and wool. The report also calls for a recognition of the region’s unique camel breeds such as the Kharai.

    Focus and factoids by Tathagat Singh.


Kachchh Unt Uccherak Maldhari Sangathan (Kachchh Camel Breeders Association), Bhuj


Kachchh Unt Uccherak Maldhari Sangathan (Kachchh Camel Breeders Association), Bhuj


Jun, 2013