The little-known Brokpa tribals of Ladakh, who claim to have been vegans for some 2,200 years of their existence, are slowly opting for an alternative diet comprising dairy products, eggs and meat — thanks to climate change.
Climate change has made summers and winters warmer and brought on pests, which have wreaked havoc on traditional crops, forcing the Brokpa to change their lifestyle.
The Nambardar or head of Dha villag, Tsering Namjial, was quoted by IANS as saying,
We have had to shift to an alternative lifestyle, not exactly what the Brokpa once used to be. People also consume meat. Some old folks still avoid this, but eggs, meat and milk are on the menu.
Practising old-style Buddhism with the Lha deity at the centre of their faith, some Borkpas still practise veganism and rely on what grows from the earth out of fear of getting polluted.
It takes about an hour to climb from a road that leads to Baltistan, some 160 km along the Indus from Leh towards Batalik, to reach Dha village — the heartland of the Brokpa community. The villages are connected with rough roads, though the Broskat speaking Brokpa prefer trekking.
Namjial further said,
The variety in agriculture has increased but production has dropped drastically, mostly due to the pests and depleting soil health. This is one of the major reasons, along with migration, that consumption of meat and dairy products is becoming common.
The tribe traditionally grew barley, potatoes, apples and apricots, while wheat was introduced later. Due to the rise in temperature, cherries, plums, grapes, tomatoes, cauliflower, beans and peas are also cultivated despite the high altitude.
According to records with the Ladakh Environment and Health Organisation (LEHO), an NGO, pests were most probably imported about 18 years back and Dha and Hanu were the first villages in the region to report the coddling moth.
Other Brokpa villages around Dha are Hanu, Beema, Garkon and Dhardik, with about 1,700 residents. All these villages were evacuated during the 1999 Kargil war, though the men stayed back to look after the crops and help the army.
According to records, between 1973 and 2008, an appreciable rise of one degree Celsius in the minimum temperature during winter and 0.5 degrees in peak summer had been observed. Further, a survey conducted in the region claims that despite the harsh 2008 weather, 95 per cent people in Kargil felt the winter and 89 percent felt the summer to be warmer.
(With inputs from IANS)