Karnali Under Stress: Livelihood Strategies and Seasonal Rhythms in a Changing Nepal Himalaya

Bishop, Barry C.

     This study is "a systematic regional synthesis with an interdisciplinary cultural-ecological point of view. It focuses on Karnali in northwestern Nepal . . . , the largest of Nepal's administrative zones and a microcosm of the countries exacerbating environmental and ecological stresses . . . The central theme of the research is the relationship of humans to the biota of their habitat and their modifications of that habitat. As such it examines the ways the people of Karnali Zone -- Indo-Aryan speaking Paharis or hill Hindus and Mongoloid Bhotia of Tibetan origin -- traditionally have coped with constraints on their ways of life and how their old methods are holding up today under new and more intense stresses." Three specific research objectives were formulated: "(1) To discover and treat those key factors that govern or constrain the movements of ethnic groups within and between their habitats; (2) [t]o determine the manner and degree to which these groups by their movements are ecological agents that alter the natural landscape; and (3) [t]o assess the significance of economic, political, and social forces that recently have changed and/or are changing these movement patterns. To avoid problems common in . . . traditional village research, regional studies, and gross national overviews . . . the work was designed to provide both a historical perspective and a multiscale spatial perspective at four levels: (1) Karnali Zone, a region linked with other zones of Nepal, Nepal as a nation, and other states such as India and Tibet; (2) subregions within Karnali Zone, linked internally and externally with other regions; (3) villages within subregions; and (4) households within villages. The field work for this study was carried out in Nepal over a period of twenty months from October 1968 through May 1970."
     The study is organized into "three parts. A perspective of both the physical and cultural landscapes of Karnali Zone within a broad pan-Himalayan context is provided in chapters 2, 3, and 4. Here the historical perspective is emphasized. Without an appreciation of this historical dimension it is impossible to fully understand current processes, for what went on in the past is reflected in the present-day scene. In chapters 5, 6, and 7, the contemporary livelihood pursuits of the Karnali population are examined topically. Then, in the concluding chapter (8), these pursuits are integrated with the aid of a cultural-ecological subsistence system model. When pertinent, detailed quantitative data at household, panchayat (groups of villages), and regional scales are introduced throughout the monograph.