By Sher Bahadur Sarki,Bajura, Jan. 29: Herding sheep is still the major occupation of locals in the northeast region of Bajura district including Budhinanda Municipality and Himali, Swamikartik Khapar, and Jagannath Rural Municipalities.
However, herders said that the struggle with herding has increased over time compared to the period before 1990s when the forests were still open for all.
“As all the forests where we used to herd our sheep have now turned into community forests, herding sheep has been difficult,” said Prem Bahadur Thapa, a sheep herder from Budhinanda.
“When the forests were open, our previous generation herded sheep with ease because there were no restrictions,” said Thapa.
He added, “We have to go down during winter as the snowfall affects grazing area for sheep as we live in the Himalayan region. However, community forests levy heavy taxes to allow sheep to graze. It affects us economically,” said Thapa.
While some levy taxes, many community forests completely restrict sheep grazing.
According to Thapa, a family used to herd up to 500 sheep alone and would herd sheep without any obstacles while going down to other regions during winter.
“Now, there is difficulty to even find an economical and sustainable grazing area. The struggles have led several youths to opt for other occupations or to go abroad as a migrant worker by leaving the traditional job of herding the sheep,” said Thapa.
Meanwhile, community forest officials informed the restriction on sheep was a necessity.
“When the sheep enter the forest and graze rampantly, they will destroy new saplings. Thus, we have restricted sheep from grazing in our community forest,” said Rajendra Rawal, secretary at Kalapatal Community Forest Consumer Committee in Budhiganga Municipality of Bajura.
Nevertheless, local levels informed that they planned to create a suitable environment to promote herding sheep among villagers. “Almost all locals in Ward No. 9 of Budhinanda herd sheep. The local government has been providing grants and support to herders. A proper management is lacking, but we are trying to solve the issues,” said Man Bahadur Rawat, ward chairman of Ward No. 9.
He informed that the local level was also bound to restrict grazing sheep in the community forests under their territory.
“The herders are allowed to take their sheep to the national forest area for grazing. Many have also started to provide local fodder to sheep in winter due to a lack of pasture lands. Some also take the sheep to their relatives’ houses in different places of the neighbouring Achham district during the cold season,” said Rawat.