Who will go?
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
“Will you please teach me the feeding method so that I will be able to get more milk from my buffalo?” asked the middle aged Gujjar woman holding her she-buffalo in a remote village in the Kashmir valley. She looked at me intently seeking my quick advice.
“Will you please teach me how to rectify the overgrown palate in my horse, as it is not able to eat?” asked an elderly gentleman from the Gujjar community.
There have been so many sincere questions shot at me from many of the neglected nomadic people groups living in Kashmir valley.
Way back in July 2009, I had the privilege of visiting the Kashmir valley to do goat training for the Bakarwal people group at the request of one of the local NGOs working in the Sanasar area. Sanasar is the name given to the two small villages of Sana and Sar in the Jammu province, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The village is in a very remote location, 20 km west of Patnitop, Udhampur district in the Jammu state.
Bakarwal are a mostly Muslim nomadic group, living in the Kashmiri mountains, taking care of goats. They regularly migrate to the plains during the winter months, so that they can find pasture lands for their animals. Most of them stay in tent houses and a few stay in kutcha houses (loosely built temporary huts). The Bakarwal people claim common ancestry with the Gujjar tribe, another one of the neglected people groups in India.
Bakarwal people are very industrious and incredibly knowledgeable in keeping animals such as buffalo, goats, and horses. Easy access to veterinary care for these animals is rare as the Bakarwal people live in remote places and constantly migrate according to the weather in the valley. Nevertheless, they use all kinds of indigenous medicine for their animals so that they can be healthy.
During the training, I had the fabulous experience of staying in the tent like most of the people. It was my first experience of sleeping on the mud in the mountain. The training focused on hands-on learning as the farmers had not had the privilege of going to school. Along with the goat training, many buffalos and horses were also. The buffaloes in this community were raised by women, while the men take care of the goats and horses. They also make paneer in the village.
The Bakarwal people need a helping hand to make their livelihood sustainable. The goat training was well received however, It is only a small beginning for this community. We need to intentionally commit to serving this community, in order to bring about a holistic transformation of one of the most neglected tribal groups in north India.