Who are Nomads?
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, nomads are officially defined as “persons without a fixed place of residence who move from one site to another, generally according to well-established patterns of territorial mobility”. In general, nomads tend to live in easily portable housing, such as tents, and they often follow a regular pattern of migration based on weather or seasonal conditions. Nomads are rarely solitary, and tend to migrate in large groups of families, clans, or tribes.
Why do Nomads Matter?
While they may be isolated and disadvantaged, nomads are an important part of the global economy. Their cultural crafts are bought worldwide for premium prices, and they previously formed a large portion of the GDP for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Additionally, as fellow human beings, they hold the potential to form lasting and successful communities if they are given proper support.
Major Nomadic Issues
Nomads face a number of issues in today’s world. Nomadic rights are rarely recognized by their governments, and as such, they receive limited to no access to healthcare, education, and land. This is only amplified by the extreme isolation they so often live in. There are almost no organizations that work for the rights of nomadic populations, as the vast majority have been either forced to assimilate to a settled lifestyle, or simply wiped out.
How can I help?
You can help us support nomadic groups such as the Baloch (see below) by supporting our work.
Tribal-Nomads & Semi-Nomads
There are also groups that are only partially nomadic, in the sense that they may settle in one place for an extended period of time. Often, their movement will be seasonal; during the winter they will occupy one location, and during the winter, they shift to a more hospitable climate. This unique halfway-status increases the potential for outside aid, because they are easier to follow and work with. An example of this sub-category would be the Balochi people of Western Pakistan.
Our efforts so far have focused primarily upon tribal-nomads, with our Black Tents of Balochistan project as an example. More information on this project can be found in the appropriate section of our website.
Where is Balochistan, and who are the Baloch?
Balochistan is a region of Southwestern and Southern Asia that encompasses roughly 600,000 square kilometers. Over half of the region (347,000 square kilometers) falls within the borders of Pakistan, forming the Pakistani province of Balochistan. The province is the largest in the country, making up 43% of Pakistan’s land area. It is also the least populated and poorest due to its climate and limited infrastructure.
The remaining segments are located in portions of Iran and Afghanistan (181,785 and 70,000 square kilometers, respectively.) The Iranian portion of Balochistan is grouped into a province known as Sistan and Baluchistan [note: “Baluchistan” is alternative spelling.] The situation there is analogous to the situation on the Pakistani side of the border, in that Sistan and Baluchistan is one of the poorest and most desolate parts of Iran, with a sparse population.
There are roughly 8 million Baloch people in Pakistan, 4 million in Iran, and 800,000 in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, there are three Baloch provinces: Nimroz, Helmand, and Farah. The region is very sparsely populated. Among the Pakistani Balochis, over three million of them live outside of Balochistan, particularly in Punjab and Sindh provinces. Many live in the slum areas of Pakistan’s large cities, particularly Karachi, which was originally founded by Balochis and bore a Baloch name: Kolachi. Additionally, 1.6 million Balochis live and work in the Persian Gulf nations of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Oman. 80% of these Balochis are temporary workers; like others in their situation, they work at various jobs in the Gulf before returning home. The rest have acquired some type of more permanent status.
Balochi populations exist elsewhere in the world, including tens of thousands in Turkmenistan and others in East Africa, as far south as Mombasa, Kenya, as well as a small population in Europe and North America.
The region’s low population seems remarkable when compared with very densely populated areas nearby, such as the Indus valley. These low numbers largely reflect the substantial differences in geography between the two regions. The areas near the Indus River are highly fertile, and as a result have attracted settlers for thousands of years. In contrast, much of Balochistan is arid, rocky, and dry. Balochistan experiences extreme heat in the summer and extreme cold in the winter, and harsh wind storms make the environment even more inhospitable.
In the southern part of Balochistan, near the Arabian Sea, lies the Macron, a semi-desert area through which Alexander the Great once passed with considerable difficulty. The Baloch have traditionally followed a nomadic pastoralist lifestyle. They are becoming increasingly semi-nomadic or sedentary due to government restrictions and overall globalization. Some parts of Balochistan contain fertile oases, and the region’s inhabitants have used irrigation methods in order to enhance the region’s fertility. Among other things, the Balochis grow oranges, date palms, barley, and grain, most of which goes to self-sustain their tribes. There only very rarely have any surplus crops that could be used for trade.