Nomadic life is facing an increased strain due to conflict with contemporary society. Nomads are not popular with national bureaucracies; always on the move (often across state boundaries), difficult to count, to register or to school, herding peoples tend to be perceived as a combination of threat and nuisance. Political security and bureaucratic convenience have frequently been important motivations behind schemes to settle nomads in permanent homes. Competition from agricultural cultivation of the land and herding (the latter in the guise of ranching) has steadily eroded the resource-base of nomadic societies. The main cause is the structure of land-ownership and land-use whereby the most fertile land is devoted to capital-intensive cash-cropping, with subsistence farmers being pushed into remoter regions, ever drier and more unsuitable for agriculture. Areas which were once grazed by the nomads alone are now becoming occupied. This is the principal threat to the nomadic way of life.
Nomads include gypsies, desert tribes such as the Bedouin and the many primitive tribes in the Americas, Asia and Australasia. Herding survives as a way of life around the Sahara, in the Middle East, in Asia as far east as western India, and in the Asian parts of the USSR.
The end of pastoral nomadism would be regrettable not merely on account of the independence and distinctiveness of this way of life but because this type of economy may be a more rational means of raising large numbers of animals under arid conditions than is capital-intensive ranching.
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