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Environ Manage. 2013 Sep;52(3):639-48. doi: 10.1007/s00267-013-0062-4. Epub 2013 May 15.

Herders' perceptions of and responses to climate change in northern Pakistan.

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  • 1International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, G.P.O. Box 3226, Kathmandu, Nepal.


Migratory pastoralism is an adaptation to a harsh and unstable environment, and pastoral herders have traditionally adapted to environmental and climatic change by building on their in-depth knowledge of this environment. In the Hindu Kush Himalayan region, and particularly in the arid and semiarid areas of northern Pakistan, pastoralism, the main livelihood, is vulnerable to climate change. Little detailed information is available about climate trends and impacts in remote mountain regions; herders' perceptions of climate change can provide the information needed by policy makers to address problems and make decisions on adaptive strategies in high pastoral areas. A survey was conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan province of Pakistan to assess herders' perceptions of, and adaptation strategies to climate change. Herders' perceptions were gathered in individual interviews and focus group discussions. The herders perceived a change in climate over the past 10-15 years with longer and more intense droughts in summer, more frequent and heavier snowfall in winter, and prolonged summers and relatively shorter winters. These perceptions were validated by published scientific evidence. The herders considered that the change in climate had directly impacted pastures and then livestock by changing vegetation composition and reducing forage yield. They had adopted some adaptive strategies in response to the change such as altering the migration pattern and diversifying livelihoods. The findings show that the herder communities have practical lessons and indigenous knowledge related to rangeland management and adaptation to climate change that should be shared with the scientific community and integrated into development planning.

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