From time immemorial, harmony among various pastoral groups relied on equal access to their most important asset; grassland. Norlha lies in the district of Zorke, which holds both farm and pasture, and though there is no fencing, all herders are keenly aware of the invisible boundaries that separate each group’s pasture and that any transgressions can result in conflict.
Since resources are limited, access to grassland in each zone is organized by season, with areas divided between spring, summer and autumn pasture. While animals graze in one area, the rest is allowed to regrow. It is a delicate ecosystem, where the animals facilitate plant life by sowing the seeds with their hooves, and fertilize the ground with their droppings. Every nomad knows that when taking from the land, one has to give it the room to give back.Each year, at the height of summer, Ritoma pastors move their sheep and yak to Chakka, the furthest of the grazing areas, about 20 kilometers from Ritoma village. The pasture will be at its most lush, and a feast for the animals. Nomads arrange their tents in groups, usually on a southern facing slope, which gives them a view on the their flocks. At night, they gather the sheep into a pen near their tent to protect them from wolves, and tether the female yaks for their morning milking. The summer move is done in one go; in the past, yaks were loaded with the folded up tents, kitchen utensils and other daily necessities, but nowadays, the preferred vehicle is the three wheeler blue camel.
The yearly stint in Chakka will last as long as the grass does. On a good year, it could go one until the end of August, after which the animals and their pastors will make their way to the autumn pasture, closer to the village.