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Rajasthani Raikas to attend world summit

The herders' delegation will attend the meet on Animal Genetic Resources at Interlaken in Switzerland, with more than 200 delegates from all over the world.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2007 12:09 IST

A group of nomadic camel and sheep breeders from Rajasthan will be leaving for Europe this month to speak about crucial issues related to their traditional livelihood at a series of international gatherings.

The Raikas, as they are known, are famous for creating some of the country's best livestock. But their future is on the brink as their traditional pastures are dwindling away. They will begin their tour on August 26.

From Sep 1 to 7, the delegation will attend the First International Conference on Animal Genetic Resources at Interlaken in Switzerland, with more than 200 government delegates from around the world, Hanwant Singh Rathore, director of Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan, a Rajasthan-based NGO facilitating the tour, told IANS.

This conference has been convened by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to discuss strategies to counter the dramatic rate of extinction of farm animal breeds, a development regarded as a threat to future food security.

The reason for this trend, among others, is that industrialised livestock farming systems are expanding while the farmers and herders that keep locally adapted breeds are being squeezed out.

"The goal of the Raika and other representatives of herding cultures is to convince the governments that they should be given an official role in efforts to conserve animal genetic resources," he said.

From September 8 to 12, the Raikas will attend an International Gathering of Nomads and Pastoralists to be held near Segovia in Spain. They will also participate in a meeting convened in Madrid by governments that have signed the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD) to emphasise that herding makes an important contribution to conserving biodiversity in dry lands.

While scientists have accumulated evidence for the positive inter-linkage between grazing and biodiversity, UNCCD has not yet acknowledged this connection.

On the way to Switzerland, the group will spend time in Germany at the invitation of the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP, www.pastoralpeoples.org), an organisation supporting pastoralists and other marginalized livestock keepers throughout the world through training and advocacy for favourable policy frameworks.

In Germany, the Raikas will interact with local sheep and cattle herders and learn from them about the use of herding animals in nature conservation.