Mobile pastoralism in the Mediterranean:
Arguments and evidence for policy reform and its
role in combating climate change
© Gema Arrugaeta
WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM:
MedINA, Sana Mzoughi, Shalimar Sinno, Sandra
Spissinger-Bang, Engin Ylmaz, Liza Zogib
CAP – European Common Agriculture Policy
CLAs – Conjugated Linoleic Acids
EFNCP – European Forum for Nature Conservation
EU – European Union
FAO – Food and Agriculture Organisation of the
GHG – Greenhouse Gas
IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
IUCN – International Union for the Conservation
OIE – World Organisation for Animal Health
PU FAs – Polyinsaturated Fatty Acids
UNEA – United Nations Environmental Assembly
Photo Credit: Spanish
pastoralist with Pramenka
ock in Eastern Herzegovina.
© Pablo Manzano
Photo Credit: We belong
to dierent generations,
dierent lifestyles, but we are
and always will be, nomads.
© Younes Tazi, Morocco,
Combating Land Degradation
CLIMATE CHANGE AXIS
Food security & food safety
Eciency in food production
Improvement in food quality
Other social issues
SHORTCOMINGS AND KNOWLEDGE GAPS
ANNEX: THE CULTURE OF PASTORALISM IN
Pastoralism, religion and spirituality
Mobile pastoralism1 is one of the most ecient livestock farming systems
in terms of natural resource use and land management. It is also a highly
sustainable and economically rational system that makes the most of the Earth’s
less productive areas, unsuitable for crop production.
e environmental benets of mobile pastoralism are many and these have been
tried and tested on the ground for millennia. In recent decades research on
ecology, economics, nutrition and sociology has revealed many of these benets,
highlighting the role that this traditional practice can full in the present day as
a tool for ‘retroinnovation’ in the ght to tackle climate change and contribute
to its mitigation and adaption, respond to social challenges and promote resilient
In a highly biodiverse region such as the Mediterranean, mobile pastoralism
not only provides ecosystem functions associated with grazing that maintain
biodiversity, but also contributes to ecosystem adaptation for climate change.
e drover roads maintained by livestock mobility are ecological corridors that
favour seed dispersal and connect valuable habitats, so avoiding isolation and
fragmentation, which are amongst the most serious threats to areas of high
biodiversity. ey also increase botanical diversity and habitat heterogeneity
without which other species could not survive.
Mobile pastoralism is also one of the most cost eective methods of preventing
wildres since grazing relies on natural rangelands, consuming the biomass,
which if le untouched forms the fuel for res. Livestock grazing it is also an
eective tool for soil stability, restoration and resilience as it adds manure to the
nutrient cycle and restores vegetation cover as mobile herds allow pastures to
rest and trees to regenerate. Most importantly in the Mediterranean, livestock
mobility has direct benets for water cycle regulation as it helps reduce pressure
on water resources, consuming water on the move where it is available.
Pastures are one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, therefore mobile
pastoralism must be used as a critical tool in the ght against climate change as it
maintains carbon-rich soils and sustains ecosystems with high carbon xation
It is also the livestock production system that requires the least fossil fuel energy,
helping in turn to reduce the demand of industrial feed whose production and
transport produce large GHG emissions. It additionally reduces the incidence of
pollution, the reliance on veterinary products (among them antibiotics) and so
produces healthier food, from livestock reared in the open air, which are t and
more resistant to disease.
1 Mobile pastoralism is a catch-all term that encompasses transhumance, semi-nomadic and nomadic pasto-
ralism, and some practices of extensive grazing, where people and their livestock move on foot through the landscape
in search of pasture and water.
Photo Credit: Raza Merina
Negra. © Familia Cabello
Bravo, Siruela (Badajoz)
e capacity to adapt to climate change challenges
is probably the most distinctive feature of pastoralist
communities who rely on local breeds, mobility
and communal land tenure, making it
resilient, ductile and adaptable to changing
Based on all these reasons, new research shows that
the policy recommendations to reduce extensive
livestock to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions will
Economic benets are also increasingly recognized.
To begin with, mobile pastoralism makes the most
of available resources in areas considered “marginal”
from a purely agricultural production point of view,
but these areas can be rich for the provision of other
ecosystem services. Additionally, pastoral products
can easily meet the rising market demands for
sustainable and healthy food that supports social
and cultural values and is produced in natural
environments and diversied cultural landscapes.
is is crucial to ght depopulation in rural areas
and build a strong and resilient rural economy, by
creating sustainable direct and indirect jobs and
stimulating peripheral economies, such as dierent
types of rural tourism and other complementary
ese economic benets also have social
implications, as they can contribute to helping
traditionally marginalized groups (e.g. women) to
get a job or become entrepreneurs, and to alleviate
the out-migration of young people to urban areas
due to the lack of job opportunities. e advantages
of 21st Century technology can make pastoralist
businesses easier and rural areas can become an
attractive option for new populations looking for
healthier and happier ways of living.
e cultural aspect (see Annex) of mobile
pastoralism is fundamental in understanding
resilience strategies, adaptation capacities and
the legacy that allows it to operate under modern
conditions. Examples from Spain, Greece, Turkey,
Lebanon or Tunisia show how pastoralist cultural
traits are ancient yet useful and important for the
adaptation of extensive livestock production, and
also a very important part of Mediterranean culture.
In spite of the clear benets provided, mobile
pastoralism is sometimes perceived as an
unsustainable farming system due to poor
understanding of its role in human wellbeing,
resulting in undermining policies that have created
hurdles to its sustainability. is, in turn, results in
widespread environmental deterioration and the
aggravation of wrong perceptions.
Decisive and urgent policy action is therefore
needed in terms of understanding, recognizing and
supporting mobile pastoralism. Policy should focus
on producing specic regulations for these extensive
farming systems (separated from industrial and
intensive farming system regulations), and helping
to improve key issues such as production of safe
and high-quality foods, sanitary regulations, use of
protection dogs, available data and statistics, and
improving the state and status of traditional pastoral
routes and existing drover roads.
To attain these objectives a change in the current
agricultural policy approach is fundamental (e.g.
in the new EU Common Agricultural Policy). e
integration of environmental and social principles
must be real in order to shi agriculture policy
focus from supporting nature degrading, intensive
production systems to those that provide a high level
of public services and improve human wellbeing, as
is the case for mobile pastoralism.
is document makes the case for mobile
pastoralism – a benecial practice that is seriously
threatened today, not just in the Mediterranean, but
all over the world.
Photo Credit: Spanish
pastoralist with Pramenka
ock in Eastern Herzegovina.
© Pablo Manzano
Mobile pastoralism is the most ecient livestock farming system in terms
of use of forage resources, water and energy, and one of the most sustainable
food systems on the planet. e herds move to pastures according to seasonal
availability and this has traditionally characterized grazing in the Mediterranean
Basin – one of the main biodiversity hot spots on Earth, partly due to these
ancestral mobile pastoralist practices. Although herbaceous pastures do exist
in the Mediterranean region, shrub or wood pastures are predominant, having
additional qualities in terms of both forage provision (particularly important in
dry conditions) and high nature values2. Mobile pastoralism’s contribution to
rural economy, society and biodiversity is also outstanding, integrating the three
dimensions of sustainable development (economic, social and environmental).
Mobile pastoralism is thus a crucial element in the achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals and it is a paradigmatic example of what FAO
denes as “climate-smart agriculture”3.
Increased global environmental awareness, particularly in the framework of
global climate change, has put a focus on livestock production. Greenhouse gas
(GHG) emissions, land degradation or deforestation and biodiversity loss are
impacts attributed to livestock4, where extensive practices carry much of the
burden (cf. Climate Change Mitigation section of this document). However,
sustainable extensive livestock production is linked to traditional practices5 and
to cultural landscapes6, both elements being the backbone of Mediterranean
mobile pastoralism. e understanding of sustainability has also been widened
in past decades, comprising not only environmental but also economic and
Pastoralism is an economic activity that can be dened as a livestock production
system that maximizes exibility in order to thrive upon unpredictable
resources, through livestock mobility and communal land management. It is a
very logical although complex production system that merges environmental,
social and economic rules, and has therefore been subject to repeated
misunderstandings by analysts and policymakers. It is easy to fall into the trap of
using terminologies or understandings that undermine its value7.
In the current climate change scenario, mobile pastoralism fullls a crucial role
as a tool for ‘retroinnovation’, or innovation through traditional practices, in
both adaptation and mitigation and it can also contribute to tackle other major
challenges which modern society currently confronts: the economic crisis, the
need for participatory governance, and social stability.
e main objective of this document is thus to elaborate solid arguments as a
basis for advocating and lobbying in favour of public policy support to mobile
pastoralism both at Mediterranean and international level.
2 EFNCP 2015a
4 Herrero et al 2012, Herrero et a l 2016
5 Eisler et al 2014
6 Plieninger et al 2014
7 Krätli et al 2015
Photo Credit: Natural Park
Hoces del Alto Ebro y
Rudrn (Burgos, Spain).
© Concha Salguero
BOX 1: ECOSYSTEM SERVICES PROVISION8.
e Millenium Ecosystem Assessment9 categories provide a framework to summarize the public goods
and ecosystem services stated in this document that are provided by mobile pastoralism:
• Provisioning: forage, fertilization, human and animal food, hunting, ber, wood fuel, landscape,
• Regulating: seed dissemination, species conservation, clean air, habitats, plant species control and
regeneration, water cycle regulation, soil protection, wildre prevention, oods and erosion prevention,
microclimate regulation, carbon storage, etc.
• Cultural: tourism, hunting, cultural identity and values, spiritual values, recreational and health
benets, traditional and scientic knowledge, etc.
• Supporting: nutrient cycle maintenance, pollination, etc.
8 See also Homann et al 2014
9 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2003, Ch. 2: Ecosystems and their services, Fig. 2.1.
Illus tration by Div ya Venkatesh, Di versEart h
Photo Credit: Skink in an
Eastern Herzegovinian forest
© Pablo Manzano
14 Environmental Axis
According to IUCN the Mediterranean Basin is one of the world’s richest places
in terms of animal and plant diversity and it is recognized as one of the rst
25 Global Biodiversity Hotspots10, largely due to traditional pastoral practices.
Pastoralism creates habitats without which other species could not survive (such
as certain invertebrate and bird species), sustaining their botanical diversity to a
high degree – in therophyte-dominated pastures, 180 spp/0.1 ha and 30 spp/400
cm2 can be found11. Well-managed livestock can also prevent the spread of
Regarding the maintenance of ecological functions, transhumant routes can be
acknowledged as ecological corridors along which millions of seeds and insects
are moved via the animals’ coats and eeces, hooves and droppings. A herd of
1000 transhumant sheep in Spain transports as many as 200 million ingested
seeds along drove roads during their 1,500 km long migration with a mean
dispersal distance of 40 km13 - other means of dispersal such as seeds attached
to the eece14, or seed spitting15 should be added to this gure. ese animal
movements interconnect valuable habitats and protected areas, avoiding their
isolation and fragmentation, which are amongst the most serious threats these
areas face today.
e role drove roads play in habitat connectivity is not restricted to the dispersal
phenomena; they provide habitat heterogeneity that increases plant diversity16
and serve as a refuge habitat for birds17 or arthropods18, including pollinators
that can yield key ecosystem services19, in otherwise hostile intensive land use
landscapes. eir fractal nature20 multiplies their connectivity, which is however
linked to keeping them in use. Given the heavy fragmentation in, for example,
European habitats, this feature is very relevant for the EU’s Green Infrastructure
strategy21 - to which the eect of homogenization derived from intensication is
Mobile pastoralism is also relevant in the maintenance of food webs. Dierent
scavengers along the Mediterranean basin are favoured through pastoralism23,
as are insects providing valuable ecosystem services associated with nutrient
cycling, such as dung beetles24, especially if adequate, moderate livestock
numbers are applied25, or ants26.
11 Peco et al 2006
12 DiTomaso, 2000
13 Manzano 2015a:145
14 Manzano & Malo 2006
15 Delibes et al 2017
16 Azcárate et al 2013a
17 Lentini et al 2011
18 Azcárate et al 2013b
19 Hevia et al 2016
20 Manzano Baena & Casas 2010
21 European Commission 2013
22 Gossner et al 2016
23 Marinković & Karadzić 1999, Xirouchakis & Nikolakakis 2002, Mateo-Tomás 2013
24 Barbero et al 1999
25 Tonelli et al 2017
26 Manzano et al 2010
Bats can also benet from extensive livestock, in turn providing pest control
e latest available data for the EU show that one of the main causes of
biodiversity depletion in Europe is the abandonment of pastoral practices28.
is is in spite of several pasture types being legally recognized as “priority
natural habitat types of Community interest” by the Habitat Directive and the
EU thus stating legal obligation to protect them. ere is an increasing demand
to include sustainable agricultural practices as a tool for conservation (EFNCP
2015b)29. Grazed pastures have shown to be the only cultural landscape whose
abandonment triggers a biodiversity loss, and their species composition bears the
highest resemblance to ecosystems that are considered “natural”30. Intermediate
disturbance through grazing sustains species diversity31. e decline of species
as threatened as the Iberian lynx, among others, dependent on grassland-
scrubland mosaics maintained by livestock32, or amphibians whose populations
are sustained by traditional water infrastructure for livestock33, are linked with
COMBATING LAND DEGRADATION
Fire prevention. Wildres devastate the Mediterranean year aer year with
huge losses of economic, social, environmental and cultural values. One of the
root causes is the abandonment of pastoral practices, so the biomass previously
consumed by animals is le untouched, forming fuel for wildres. Lands
under silvopastoralist use have proven to be less prone to wildres because of
understorey reduction34. Additionally, livestock has proven to be very useful in
maintaining rebreaks35. is adds to the usefulness of controlled, traditionally
prescribed res by pastoralists – and where the involvement of the public sector
is possible and positive36.
In spite of pastoralists being routinely accused of overgrazing and forest damage,
extensive livestock has proven to sustain adequate regeneration of tree cover in
parkland/savanna-like landscapes. Livestock that migrates seasonally leaves the
pasture just at the time when the grass starts to become scarce and before the
animals start browsing on young saplings, allowing for their survival37. Adequate
livestock management, oen consisting in mobile pastoralism, preserves some
shrubs in the landscape that provide shade to young trees and shelter them from
grazing, improving their survival rate up to adult age38 and ensuring the long-
term durability of the ecosystem.
27 Ancillotto et al 2017
28 European Environment Agency 2015
29 EF NCP 2015b
30 Plieninger et al 2014
31 Dumont et al. 2012
32 Palomares et al. 2001
33 Canals et al. 2011
34 Rigueiro-Rodríguez et al 2005
35 Ruiz Mirazo 2011
36 Vélez 2010
37 Carmona et al 2013
38 Perea et al 2016
Photo Credit: Iberian lynx.
16 Environmental Axis
Livestock grazing can also be used as a tool for soil restoration. Vegetation cover
can be restored, therefore preventing oods and erosion. In the process, plant39
and arthropod40 diversity can also be improved. Low grazing pressure has been
observed to be a preferable restoration strategy than complete grazing cessation
or aorestation41. e full restoration of previous diversity is challenging,
however, so preventing abandonment is preferable42. Additionally, manure
has the capacity to increase soil macroaggregates, compaction resistance and
water content capacity43, all of which have a direct positive eect on resistance
to erosion. Livestock corralling (“bomas” or “kraals”) is routinely used as a
technique to regenerate degraded vegetation and soils in Eastern Africa44,
equivalent to the practice of folding livestock in Europe (“redileo” in Spain). In a
mutually benecial relationship, livestock benets from high-diversity pastures
in terms of nutrition and health, even if feeding from hay45.
Livestock plays an important role in soil nutrient cycling. In agropastoralist
(crop-livestock) systems, mineralization of organic matter is to a large extent
done by bacteria in the dung46 that dung beetles as well as ants and termites
further contribute to incorporate into the soil47. ese processes generate a
net nutrient transfer from rangelands to croplands48, thereby fertilizing crops
and contributing to food security. ey also steer a slow release of N and other
nutrients, therefore preventing water pollution by leaching49. While livestock
remains fundamental for its role in nutrient cycling even in very densely
populated humid areas50, this sustainable fertilization strategy has however been
superseded by the use of resources from fossil reserves51.
While water exhaustion and water usage are related to land degradation, a large
water footprint is routinely attributed to livestock. A better understanding of
green water vs. blue water demand is desirable52, however, particularly in the case
of water usage by traditional pastoralists. As their use of blue water (i.e. water
extracted from streams or reservoirs) is minimal if at all, and their use of green
water (i.e. rainwater) has no impact on the general availability of water, given
their reliance on natural vegetation, their water footprint can be considered nil53.
Most importantly, the benets on soil structure mentioned above also have a
direct benet in the water storage capacity and in the regulating water cycle.
39 Pykälä, 2003
40 Pöyry et al., 2004
41 Papanastasis et al 2017
42 Muller et al. 1998
43 Blanco-Canqui et al 2015, Mikha et al 2015
44 Kimiti et al 2017, Huruba et al 2017
45 French 2017
46 Haynes & Williams 1993:149, Runo et al 2006
47 Slade et al 2016a, Manzano et al in prep
48 Powell et al 1996, Schiere & Kater 2001, Runo et al 2006
49 Runo et al 2006
50 orne & Tanner 2002
51 Schiere et al 2002
52 Hoekstra 2016
53 Scholtz et al 2013, Pster et al 2017
Climate Change Axis
Photo Credit: Raza Merina
Negra. © Familia Cabello
Bravo, Siruela (Badajoz)
18 Climate Change Axis
While mobile pastoralism has been rather more linked to climate change
adaptation, here we list signicant arguments to also take it into account as an
important element of mitigation strategies.
Regarding carbon storage, grazing has a crucial role in CO2 osets and grazing
land is one of the largest sinks for long-term carbon sequestration. On the other
hand, degraded or tilled pastures can release large amounts of carbon dioxide
into the atmosphere. Keeping these areas managed under sustainable grazing
practices is essential for climate change mitigation.
e potential of grazed ecosystems to store carbon in the soil is illustrated by
the IPCC report on land use change54. Savanna or grasslands store most of the
carbon in the soil, highlighting the sequestration potential of good livestock
practices. is has been the central argument to soen the mainstream message
of extensive livestock as a big GHG source55. Given the high dependence of
carbon storage potential on seasonality and water availability56, adequate soil
conditions that retain water and allow for extended soil moisture (see above) will
be essential for translating it into actual soil carbon xation.
Mobile pastoralism can also have a very relevant role in low-carbon livestock
production. Pastoralism, along with other livestock practices that vary in their
degree of extensication, has been largely attributed with large carbon footprints,
which end up osetting potential benets of e.g. sequestration in rangeland
soils57, to a great extent because of the intensity of methane and nitrous oxide
emission in cellulose-rich diets and their very strong greenhouse eect in the
short term. ese attributions are nevertheless contentious, because they do not
take into account baseline emissions in ecosystems58 and the very low fossil fuel
use footprint by pastoral practices (because of less reliance on industrial animal
feed59). Fuel-derived carbon dioxide is a much more dangerous greenhouse gas
in the long term, i.e. a scale of thousands of years60. is eect is also measurable
in terms of energy, which illustrates the trade-o between eciency as currently
measured and sustainability61. is basically translates into mobile pastoralism
being the most climate-friendly livestock production system. If this argument
is taken into account, the lower demand of extensive systems for croplands and
fodder, being able to feed on grass from marginal lands or by-products from
crop production and food processing62 would make sustainable diets achievable.
Dung-burying insects such as dung beetles63 or ants64 seem also to have a
54 Table 4 at IPCC 2000
55 Garnett 2009
56 Hovenden et al 2014
57 Gerber et al 2013
58 Manzano & White submitted
59 Casas & Manzano 2011, Global Justice Now 2015, Vigan et al 2017
60 Manzano & White submitted
61 Rodríguez-Ortega et al 2017
62 Schader et al 2015, Röös et al 2016
63 Slade et al 2016b
64 Manzano et al in prep
Climate Change Axis
relevant role in reducing current estimates of GHG
emissions from manure excreted by pastoralist
In the discussions around climate change,
pastoralism has been mainly mentioned because
of its undeniable advantages for climate change
adaptation, as they are intimately linked with their
resilience strategies. Publications on the issue
are abundant for sub-saharan Africa65, but there
are also examples of global scope66. is is not
surprising, mobile pastoralism being a livelihood
that has developed not to cope with but to prot
from unpredictable resources67, even if this concept
is dicult to understand both by scientists and
Among the factors that contribute to the adaptation
capacity of mobile pastoralists, perhaps the most
important ones are mobility and communal land
management. Both elements allow pastoralists to
have a large pool of natural resources, not restricted
to private lands. Grazing resources can therefore be
optimized both in terms of quality (accessing the
best available fodder) and quantity (no grass will be
le ungrazed because of insucient animals e.g. in
an extraordinarily productive year). In the context
of climate change, the ability to cope with changes is
easily derived from these strategies. Any attempt to
disrupt mobility will easily translate into a dramatic
and oen fatal loss of resilience69.
Indigenous breeds are also an essential element, as
they are adapted not only to local environments but
also to the practices of the community. Repeated
attempts to introduce “improved” breeds that cannot
cope with the local production regime are therefore
totally counterproductive for intended development
65 e.g. Nassef et al 2009, WISP 2010, Kisangani & Abdel Aziz 2011,
66 Nori & Davies 2007, Neely et al 2009
67 Krätli 2015
68 Krätli et al 2015
69 Nori et al 2008
70 Manzano 2015b, Manzano 2017
Photo Credit (from top to
bottom): Water provision
to livestock through water
troughs; Transhumant ock
migrating through dry
pastures; Transhumant ock
migrating through snow
© Trashumancia y Naturaleza
Photo Credit: Locally
adapted Pramenka sheep in
© Pablo Manzano
Given the uniqueness of many pastoralist products, markets oer great
opportunities for pastoralist development71, but mobile pastoralism also has
a particular advantage at xing human population, creating sustainable
economic networks in rural areas. is is especially important in those areas
considered marginal for the current economic model, which make them
vulnerable to a lack of investment and depopulation, feeding the vicious circle of
socio-economic decline of these areas.
However, regarding low population density and marginal lands for crop
production, pastoralism might be the best cost-ecient option72 as few other
economic activities are possible. Pastoralism can also play a unique role
to structure a sustainable economic network in areas where diversity and
product specicity are central market values73, and that rely on diversied and
complementary networks of small enterprises and family businesses which will
bring more resilience to rural economies (responding to the logic that it is “better
to have 1000 businesses with 4 workers than only 1 enterprise of 4000 workers”).
is can be the foundation for a strong and resilient rural economy, by creating
sustainable direct and indirect jobs and stimulating peripheral economies (linked
with dierent types of tourism, handicras, wine and gastronomy, etc.). is
would also contribute to facilitate traditionally marginalized groups (e.g. women)
to access jobs or become entrepreneurs, and to alleviate the out-migration of
young people to urban areas due to the lack of job opportunities.
Pastoralism can also benet from the steadily increasing demand for sustainable
food and other products containing “dierent” values (social, cultural or health
• Organic: Substantial growth is envisaged in North America and Northern
Europe (with Germany at the top), but also in the Mediterranean – Spain
being the rst producer, and h worldwide (where 53.2 % consists of
permanent grassland and grazing areas74), and France and Italy are second
and fourth consumer countries respectively. e three strongest per capita
consumer countries in the world are also European (Switzerland, Denmark
and Sweden)75. To make the most of these opportunities, the Mediterranean
organic sector should develop a strategic vision focused on cooperation among
dierent actors in various areas (legislation, policies, information, research and
extension, market etc.), with a view to achieving a more harmonious and sound
development of the sector at both national and international contexts76.
• Other sustainable food categories, like eco-labeled foods, sustainable sourcing,
traceability, nature protection, etc. are envisaged to rise. As some market
research has shown, up to 85% of consumers would choose a Natura 2000 labeled
product, conrming the willingness of consumers to support biodiversity and
71 McGahey et al 2014
72 Western 1982, Krätli 2015
73 Mathias et al 2010
74 EcoLogical 2016
75 Willer & Lernoud 2017
76 Pugliese et al. 2014
22 Economic Axis
local economic activity in rural areas77.
• Sustainability metrics are likely to be prominent,
(particularly signicant for mobile pastoralism
regarding carbon neutral pledges) and also food
authenticity and traceability – greater investment
is envisaged in ingredient supply chains to allow
transparency and reduce the risk of food fraud and
• e future consumer prole seems to show
a tendency of reducing meat consumption
(particularly red meat, considered more unhealthy)
while looking for food that benets both health and
the environment, and from local and trustworthy
producers. ere is big potential here for pastoral
products, although some eorts on innovation, new
products and better communication to targeted
consumers must be developed79.
However, out of these specic market niches,
mobile pastoralism is threatened by the current
structure of the economic environment. Even if the
environmental values it provides are recognized, the
current market is not yet able to pay for them, and
the organic market is still insucient to promote
their best practices80. e costs are higher for these
labour-intensive systems, so price competition with
products from industrial farming (which also control
part of the market supply chain) is dicult.
Regarding import/export markets, pastoralist
products from developing countries could also
benet from accessing wealthier country markets,
through adding value in origin and promoting
local skills and resources for local food production,
processing and trade. e recognition of this fact
is nevertheless still challenging81 and will depend
on trade agreements being favourable to pastoral
products from small farming systems. is point can
also be controversial as export/import markets will
always involve transport and therefore more carbon
Access to the wider public is also challenging for
pastoral products, as the majority of consumers
77 SEO/Bi rdLife 2 017
78 Ecovia Intelligence 2017
79 Interovic 2017
80 Escribano et al 2015a
81 Manzano 2016
Photo Credit (from top
to bottom): QueRed (the
Spanish association for
artisanal cheese making) at
the Slow Food Cheese Fair in
Bra, Italy. © Concha Salguero
© Trashumancia y Naturaleza
Eco-lodge Kamena Gora.
© Pablo Manzano
innately tend to select oligopolies that control the
mid-quality markets82. Joint marketing action in
pastoralist collectives, however, could help tackle
these issues83, not only by classifying products
and marketing them eciently according to their
quality84, but also by promoting a more stable food
market, based on a closer interaction between
producer and consumer that avoids unnecessary
intermediary market chain actors.
So product diversication and innovation are key
to success. For example new market niches, such as
demand for “grass meat” (meat from animals that
feed only on grass, without industrial feed) that seem
to be growing, present a big potential for extensive
grazing meat. “Fih range products”85 also oer
great potential as a new market niche for pastoralists,
as they can shorten the market chain and facilitate
wider access to urban consumers, including
restaurants, increasing the demand for this type of
product. Some experiences are already in place86.
e potential of grazed lands for carbon xation has
already been discussed in this document, but access
of pastoralists to carbon markets has remained
challenging to date, e.g. due to ownership issues and
the attribution of potential carbon payments87, issues
in determining correct management schemes88,
or high transaction costs89. However, econometric
analyses show the higher potential of more diverse
grasslands in xing more carbon, which combined
with other ecosystem services provided by
biodiversity may reinforce the economic arguments
for conservation and for payments for ecosystem
services even further90.
Complementary activities and peripheral economies
can also increase the protability of pastoralism. For
example, opportunities for tourism around drover
roads have been extensively studied in Spain,
82 Fernández-Márquez et al 2016
83 Manzano & Agarwal 2015
84 cf. section “Improvement of food quality” in this document
87 Tennigkeit & Wilkes 2008, Dougill et al 2012
88 Orgill et al 2017
89 Lipper et al 2010
90 Hungate et al 2017
where they are even mentioned in the White Book
on Transhumance91. ese ancient routes have been
mapped and protected in some Mediterranean
countries and they constitute an excellent
heritage for outdoor activities, compatible with
transhumance uses, as recognised in the Spanish
Act on Drove Roads, 199592. Transhumance as a
tourism activity93 is increasingly being developed as
a side income for many mobile pastoralists in Spain,
and as a tourist attraction in Italy94, highlighting the
potential to other countries in the region.
Traditionally, rural economies have been based
on “multifunctionality” (not on monoculture
or specialization) so income and eciency came
from the combination of dierent activities and
community deals. is might be one of the reasons
why pastoralism and other traditional practices do
not accommodate for mass production, standarised
and specialised markets. e economies of scale,
low price competition and other key concepts
of industrial production are alien (and oen
contradictory) to practitioners of such traditional
is is why, in the current market context the strong
competitive point of rural areas is “diversity” as
opposed to standardization and mass production.
Traditional products must be linked to the territory
and culture and therefore to the sustainability
of their natural resources, involving the human
resources of the local community.
New trends in economy, such as the so called
“collaborative” or “sharing economy”, can also have
a positive inuence in catalysing changes in favour
of traditional products and practices. However, for
this to happen, establishing a reliable internet access
in rural areas and other enabling conditions, will be
91 AAV V 201 2
92 Boletín Ocial del Estado 1995
93 Antón Burgos 2007
94 King ton 2010
95 Wagner et al 2015
Photo Credit: Cowboys:
Black Avileña. Cattle farmers:
Navadijos (Avila, Spain).
Summer transhumance from
the lowlands of Extremadura
to the high summer pastures
in the Gredos Mountains.
© Gema Arrugaeta,
FOOD SECURITY & FOOD SAFETY
EFFICIENCY IN FOOD PRODUCTION
One of the main, awed political arguments to implement policies destructive to
mobile pastoralism is a humanitarian one: the repeated occurrence of famines in
pastoralist areas. is ignores the fact that pastoralist livelihoods are the best
at yielding agricultural production in the areas they live in96, and that crises
are usually the consequence of a poor understanding of pastoralist livelihoods97.
Sucient, well-tailored investment in pastoralist areas has the capacity to reduce
e same mechanisms that underlie pastoralist livelihood resilience are the ones
that explain why mobile pastoralism achieves food security in otherwise harsh
environments. Additionally, they achieve optimization of resources in marginal
lands for crop production, as already described in the early 80s in the Sahel99.
is, however, is not an exclusive feature of mobile pastoralism in drylands, but
also in other ecosystems such as cold100 and mountainous101 areas.
Mobile pastoralism also yields important services for crop production by
facilitating pollination: increases in grassland biodiversity, even if modest,
improve pollinator availability and eciency102 and therefore benet crop yields.
IMPROVEMENT IN FOOD QUALITY
Mobile livestock is less aected by animal diseases, because of the trouble
parasites have in establishing refugia103. is is contradictory to the widespread
veterinary strategy to immobilize livestock in order to treat diseases through
drenching. Livestock reared in the open air and fed on natural pastures is more
likely to be t and resistant to disease, especially local/native breeds, which are
usually hardier and more adapted to local conditions. is reduces the incidence
of water and soil pollution and the reliance on veterinary products104. ese
benets are transmitted to the meat, milk and other derived products resulting
in high quality, more secure, and healthier food. Special attention should be
given to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, which has attracted attention
from the World Health Organization105 and from European institutions106.
is has triggered the involvement of international organizations that lead on
veterinary health issues such as FAO107 or OIE108 .
96 Krätli 2015
97 Krätli et al 2015, Manzano 2017
98 de Haan et al 2016
99 Breman & de Wit 1983
100 Dwyer & Istomin 2009
101 Manzano Baena & Casas 2010, EFNCP 2015a
102 Orford et al 2016
103 Kenyon et al 2009
104 Eisner et al 2014
105 WHO 2015
106 European Parliament News 2016
26 Social Axis
ere is solid evidence that pasture-fed animal
products consistently yield a better nutritional
prole, with direct obvious implications for
pastoral products. Benets are linked with a lipidic
composition that is better for human health,
essentially consisting in higher content of poly-
insaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) or conjugated
linoleic acids (CLAs), or higher Omega 3 content
(better Omega 6/Omega 3 balance). is is the case
for pork meat, of which the Iberian pig is the best
example of pastoralist production109, for beef110 as
well as for lamb111 and cow milk112 . In the latter case,
it is considered healthier even if the iodine content is
lower in pasture-fed animals.
Sustainable livestock production is able to provide
enough animal products for healthy human
diets (enough high-quality protein)113. is is an
important issue considering the increased alerts
about health risks caused by excessive red meat
consumption and its impact in the public debate114,
including eects on obesity115. It is also important
considering that intensive livestock production
impacts are regarded as inevitable because of the
rising demand in animal products that is supposedly
to be satised116; this rising and unhealthy demand
trend has very negative projections regarding
sustainability117. Importantly, the perception that
a vegan diet is most sustainable, because of the
lost eciency in the conversion of plant food into
animal food, is proved as awed in this case by the
use grazers make of uncultivable land: healthy diets
with moderate amounts of animal products have
indeed higher carrying capacity118. Based on the
evidence presented in the previous paragraph, it is
clear that such a scenario where animal foods are
obtained from mobile pastoralism would not only
be sustainable but would also provide the highest
quality of animal products.
109 Jiménez-Colmenero et al 2010
110 Średnicka-Tober et al 2016a
111 Howes et al 2014
112 Średnicka-Tober et al 2016b
113 Schader et al 2015
114 Rutsaert et al 2015
115 Wang & Beydoun 2009
116 FAO 20 04
117 Tilman & Clark 2014
118 Peters et al 2016
e practice of mobile pastoralism is deeply rooted
in the landscape and is imbibed with cultural
signicance. As such it is an important cultural
practice that contributes to the preservation of
cultural diversity119 and immaterial heritage120 in all
countries where it persists.
Mobile pastoralism, as a major traditional cultural
practice in the Mediterranean, dating as far back as
10,000 years, is a unique example of how biological
and cultural components have been constantly
interacting through millennia. is interaction has
shaped traditional Mediterranean landscapes and
produced innumerable cultural manifestations.
Traditional farmhouses, huts, watering points,
cultivated terraces, bridges, stone walls, hermitages
and monasteries, and a long list of other rural
architectural features form part of a material
heritage that is the physical expression of a long and
wise relationship between nature and humankind.
e maintenance of local breeds, themselves of
cultural importance, is another way in which
this practice contributes to maintaining cultural
Consequently, pastoral landscapes harbour a rich
cultural heritage, both material and immaterial,
which is crucial not only for our physical survival
but also for our spiritual sense of identity and
e immaterial heritage of pastoralism in the
Mediterranean is outstanding and can be found
in countless manifestations of folklore, local
agroecosystems, traditional ecological knowledge,
cultural practices, art, traditional celebrations,
gastronomy, poetry, and so forth. Some selected
examples are provided in the Annex by way of
119 Casas & Hernández Yustos 2012
120 Boletín Ocial del Estado 2017
121 Köhler-Rollefson 1997, 2001
OTHER SOCIAL ISSUES
Mobile pastoralism is able to improve territorial
balance. e high labour intensity of the livelihood
and the high added value of its products, as
mentioned above, are able to support more people in
rural areas122, sustaining strong, vibrant and resilient
communities. Rural areas need to be provided with
basic services in order to attract young people and
a variety of professionals to reduce out-migration
to urban areas and tackle the depopulation that is
becoming critical in some Mediterranean areas123.
Simultaneously, record numbers of migrants and
asylum-seekers arrive from other parts of the
Mediterranean, most of them living in overcrowded
conditions in temporary camps. is challenging
paradox should be a central point of reection in
social and economic decision making processes and
crucial for the future of rural life.
However, at policy level the contrary has happened,
with small scale farming in rural areas largely
ignored. Ocial gures show that for example in
the EU, between 2003-2010, three million farms
disappeared, of which nearly 80% were smaller than
5 ha. In contrast, the number of farms larger than 50
ha increased by nearly 30,000 in the same period124.
is can be attributed to a European Common
Agricultural Policy (CAP) that for decades has
favoured industrial farms with a productivity focus,
while displacing those that generate the highest
quality products with the least negative impact.
Latest CAP reforms seem to deepen the disadvantage
of farms in low-performing areas125.
High value products protect smaller farms from
being outcompeted, and this has proved critical
for Mediterranean livestock owners, particularly
due to quality certication initiatives126. is is
very important to guarantee some stability of rural
populations in areas of low agricultural potential.
Gender is a major factor explaining rural
depopulation and the collapse of pastoral systems.
122 Escribano et al 2015b
123 Pinilla et a l 2006
124 DGAR D 2013:162
125 Giannakis & Bruggeman 2015
126 Ligios et al 2005, Pimlin et al 2006
e fundamental role of women in pastoralist
societies has been well described, but also the
labour division around gender lines and their low
empowerment in traditional settings127. While
women’s mobility can be constrained in less
developed settings128, their abandonment of the
rural landscape in more developed countries poses
a real problem of social sustainability129 as well as
of cultural erosion that can compromise future
innovation and diversication opportunities,
with industries such as cheese-making tied to
the traditional knowledge of women. Women’s
empowerment130 is therefore a fundamental
strategy for the long-term sustainability of pastoral
societies. Empowerment of pastoralist women to
make them part of the decision making process
would be a decisive change for keeping rural areas
alive and in turn traditional practices such as mobile
pastoralism. In some countries women are starting
to react and creating their own groups131.
Mobile pastoralism has the ability to provide the
highest levels of animal welfare among livestock
husbandry. Whereas intensive systems have been
heavily criticised for ethical concerns, pastoralist
systems cannot be viewed in the same light. Animals
in extensive husbandry techniques enjoy the open
pasture, exercise and natural food, and this make
them much less prone to disease. Additionally
in terms of productivity, they benet from lower
veterinary treatments, availability of shadowed
shelters and variety in food choice132. Livestock
intensication implies an increase in animal
densities that also has a direct impact in animal
127 Flintan 2008
128 Ilcan 1994
129 Ní Laoire 2001, Hoggart & Paniagua 2001
130 IUCN 2013
131 For example, Ganaderas en Red in Spain: https://www.facebook.
132 Broom et al 2013, Broom 2016
133 Llonch et al 2016
Photo Credit: Watch out,
© Wassim Ghozlani,
Mobile pastoralism has been the victim of poor policies worldwide134,
mainly due to poor understanding at political decision-making levels. e
Mediterranean is no exception with, for example, an EU Common Agriculture
Policy that fails to support pastoralism135 and that is unable to understand the
functioning of woodland pastures136 or traditional governance systems such as
common grazing lands137.
e public policy steps needed in support of mobile pastoralism should build
upon evidence presented here in order to help comply with other national and
international legislation. Arguments and supportive data have been put forth
so that the commitments within the UN Conventions (Biological Diversity,
Desertication and Land Degradation, and Climate Change) can be honoured.
Other relevant legislation includes nature conservation regulations, animal
husbandry and animal welfare regulations, Rural Development Strategies,
EU 2020 Strategy, etc. Further legislation could be built upon the 2016 UNEA
resolution (UN Environmental Assembly) in favour of pastoralism138.
A traditional element to avoid conict of livestock keepers with predators in the
Mediterranean while allowing for their co-existence has been the use of livestock
protection dogs139, with local breeds in nearly every corner of the Mediterranean
basin. However, use of such dogs is increasingly being limited by Breed-Specic
Laws created to protect the general public against potentially dangerous
dogs. Specic provisions are required to protect the use of working dogs with
pastoralists in order to minimize human-wildlife conict. On the contrary,
wise use of these dogs should be encouraged or even subsidized in light of the
increasing conicts with expanding bear and wolf populations. Further research
is also needed to establish best practices in pastoral dog management140.
Another dicult issue is in relation to sanitary and food hygiene regulations,
such as those for animal disease control, animal husbandry and food
processing. ese are usually tailored to meet larger-scale industrial needs,
making compliance very dicult for small producers. Good examples are
the cheese processing regulations: in some countries, the same hygiene and
sanitary requirements are applied irrespective of whether the producer is a
large factory or a small artisanal holding. is oen leads to the prohibition of
on-site cheese-making for livestock farmers, or makes investment in cheese-
making unaordable for small producers. e adaptation of the current cheese
production regulations to artisanal production is therefore crucial to their
competitiveness: the European Commission has recently approved a guide
for Good Hygiene Practices in the production of artisanal cheese and dairy
products141, which is an important step forward.
134 de Jode 2010, Khazanov, 2013
135 Giannakis & Bruggeman 2015
136 EFNCP 2015a
137 EFNCP 2015b
138 UNE P 2016
139 Cummins 2008
140 Eklund et al 2017
141 Eklund et al 2017
30 Policy Action
e progressive closure of small rural
slaughterhouses is another handicap for small
livestock farmers. It is not only that the animals
have to be taken further to be slaughtered (with
more distress for the animals), but also that
slaughterhouses are oen large and privately owned
and they are in a strong position to impose prices
and other conditions. One potential solution could
be using small scale mobile processing units. is
would reduce costs, improve animal welfare and
ease market access for small producers. However,
in general, current legislation does not facilitate the
use of this alternative, despite its strong potential
for rebuilding local and sustainable food systems.
However some experiences have been already
implemented in for instance the USA and Sweden,
and new voices are rising for the approval of such
systems in countries such as France and Spain142.
Specic strategies should also be designed to
support high-value products associated with
high quality. Specic marketing of the pastoral
products’ superior quality is well proven to be the
best opportunity for the survival and livelihood of
pastoral communities, but it still needs support. e
bottleneck for organic meat farms in Western Spain,
for example, has been the conservative middlemen,
who still do not demand enough high-quality
products to sustain organic farms – even if the
interest of individual consumers is keeping pace with
the change of producer mentalities143.
National agricultural policies, or the CAP in
the case of European Union members, should be
redesigned with several aspects in mind. Public
payments to agriculture should be structured in
a way to dierentiate extensive from intensive
livestock production (Box 2), while territories
should get dierential treatment according to their
conservation value14 4. Public funds and policies
should support and promote agricultural systems
that provide public and ecosystem services, and plan
to put an end to production systems that degrade
and deplete natural resources and social wellbeing.
142 Goma r 2016
143 Escribano et al 2015a
144 EFNCP 2015b
Photo Credit (from top
to bottom): Drove roads
demarcated by a milestone;
Drove roads are also used for
ecotourism activities such as
© Trashumancia y Naturaleza
BOX 2: DISTINGUISHING MOBILE PASTORALISM AND EXTENSIVE FARMING FROM
INTENSIVE LIVESTOCK REARING.
We oen talk about “extensive farming systems” in contrast with “intensive farming systems”. e
former means low input farming systems where the livestock lives outdoors, ranging the territory and
grazing the local natural resources, managed mainly through pastoralism and without any - or very
little - use of external inputs. e latter means an industrial way to maximize animal food production,
by applying industry methods through the concentration of a high number of livestock indoors,
fed and kept by the intense use of external inputs. e extensive systems are highly sustainable
and produce environmental benets, while the intensive systems produce a number of negative
However, the sustainability of livestock production shows dierent degrees of impact according to the
degree of intensication. ree major levels can be established: extensive, mixed and industrial. e
rst one roughly corresponds to mobile pastoralism; the second corresponds to animals kept in open
elds but fed to a large extent with fodder; while the third one corresponds to feedlots. Mixed and
industrial systems show distinct environmental impacts, yet they are continually considered together
in national statistics and decisions, which hinders the development of appropriate policies.
Mixed systems are very common on both shores of the Mediterranean due to fodder subsidies, in
principle provided to help poor livestock keepers. ey are oen identied with pastoralism but cause
specic environmental problems such as land degradation. is happens because of nutrient depletion
if livestock densities145 are too high; demand for brous food above the available carrying capacity
because of high protein input in fodder that needs to be compensated by bre, as is the case in Algeria
and Syria146, or general increased trampling. Fodder subsidies have proven to trigger overstocking and
Dierentiating pastoralist systems from less extensive systems is also necessary when designing
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) mitigation policies14 8; current proposals that do not dierentiate among
them149 can have a big impact in undermining pastoralist systems while at the same time not fullling
the aimed objectives150, as pastoralist systems are negligible GHG emitters if adequate baseline
emission levels are accounted for. Conversely mixed systems, promoted by current subsidy schemes,
increase GHG emissions due to higher demand for industrial fodder, with its associated footprint, and
to a number of ineciencies in feed digestion and management151.
Pastoralism on the other hand is an environmentally friendly production system that should therefore
be promoted with an environmental perspective, while more intensive systems should be gradually
led and encouraged to increasingly comply with more sustainable production standards. It would
therefore be advisable to make a clear statistical distinction between intensive and pastoralist systems,
so that distinct and appropriate environmental policies can be designed for both.
143 Powell et al 1996
144 Hazell et al 2001:19-23
145 Hazell et al op, cit., Fundación Entretantos forthcoming
146 Fundación Entretantos forthcoming
147 Key & Tallard 2012
148 Vigan et al 2017, Manzano & White submitted
149 Herrero et al 2016
Photo Credit: e
Sarakeçililer know how to
communicate with their
animals... this is crucial for
maintaining harmony on the
© Bari Koca, Turkey, 2014.
Shortcoming / Knowledge Gaps
Beyond the promotion of adequate policies, some knowledge gaps persist
around Mediterranean pastoralism that require future eorts to ensure accurate
A major shortcoming is the lack of documentation about drovers’ roads. We
have revised above how determinant these structures are for the provision
of ecosystem services. However, only France and Spain seem to have a more
or less complete catalogue of their drove roads that allows for protective
measures. Eorts are currently underway to map drove roads throughout the
National statistics do not discriminate between the dierent types of livestock
production systems and are not therefore able to determine how many people
are working in mobile pastoralism or how many animals they have, and
other basic information. In the case of the European Union this is particularly
deplorable, for there have been specic payments for “livestock extensication”.
is means that the information is managed by local administrations but there
is no demand for it to be incorporated into national statistics. Without that
information it is hard to design ecient interventions and, when researchers try
to come up with a number, they have to use indirect estimates152 that may not be
accurate enough. In North Africa and other Mediterranean areas the uncertainty
is even more acute making it challenging to design accurate and adequate
152 Casas Nogales & Manzano Baena 2007, Fundación Entretantos, Ruiz et al 2017
153 Dutilly-Diane 2007
Photo Credit: A map
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Xirouchakis, S. & Nikolakakis, M. (2002).
Conservation implications of the temporal and spatial
distribution of Bearded Vulture Gypaetus barbatus in
Crete. Bird Conservation International 12, 269–280.
Annex: The Culture
of Pastoralism in the
Photo Credit: Transhumance
of Latxa sheep slicing through
the mountain at Arrizaga
gorge, in the Aralar Range
(Basque Country). © Gema
Arrugaeta, Spain, 2014.
Annex: e Culture of Pastoralism in the Mediterranean
Transhumance in Spain is the living legacy of human ingenuity in taking on the
role of the great herbivores before them. Spain’s natural richness is enhanced by
the livestock activity initiated by Iberian drovers in Neolithic times, who began
to create specic landscapes (such as the dehesas) and also native breeds such as
the Merino sheep. Transhumance has le as its legacy the Drovers’ Roads, the
routes followed by the herds which were rst given legal recognition in the 13th
Century and whose status was re-conrmed in 1995 with the creation of the
National Network of Drovers’ Roads. Unique in the world, in total it stretches
to more than 12,000 km in length and comprises over 400,000 ha of land;
in comparative terms this equates to 161 times the length of the ‘Camino de
Santiago’, with equal potential to attract visitors.
Spain is a good example of a western nation whose history, landscape and culture
have been deeply inuenced by pastoral and transhumant heritage, therefore the
material and immaterial cultural legacy is immense154. As such transhumance
has been ocially declared immaterial cultural heritage by the Spanish
In the same way, the dehesa silvopastoral system, unique to Spain and Portugal,
will in the near future be proposed for World Heritage status within the category
of “cultural landscapes” of UNESCO. It meets ve of the six criteria for cultural
landscapes and all four of the total natural heritage criteria156.
Perhaps one of the most important aspects to address in the Spanish context is to
promote new uses for this heritage, in order to support its protection and build
new economic activities related to it in rural areas. Public participation of the
community and users in these processes will be a way to guarantee the future of
this outstanding and unique cultural legacy.
154 Cruz Sánchez & Escribano Velasco 2013
155 Boletín Ocial del Estado 2017
156 ICOMOS, unpublished.
46 Annex: e Culture of Pastoralism in the Mediterranean
Evidence of domesticated animals in the Greek territory goes back to the seventh
millennium BC; however the appearance of transhumance is still disputed
among scholars157. Certainly though, under Ottoman rule (15th-19th century), a
system of nomadic stock farming was gradually developed, known as the great
tseligata which continued until the 20th century. One factor contributing to the
ourishing of nomadism in that period was the ease of movement for herdsmen
and their ocks as a result of a unied administration under the Ottomans.
e basis of the tseligata system was a highly organised system of collaboration
between the herdsmen, which incorporated many of the basic principles of the
In Greece, transhumance is linked with two separate cultural groups of people:
the Sarakatsani, who had no settled dwellings in either summer or lowland
pastures, and the Vlachs, who created proper villages close to their summering
sites but scattered over the plains in the winter according to availability of
pastures; both groups are largely settled now. It is important to note however,
that before the creation of ethnic states in the 20th century, the herdsmen along
with their ocks, families and belongings were moving freely from place to place
across Greece and the Balkans. is practice has played a particularly signicant
role in the origin and maintenance of lowland – upland interactions, inuencing
the actual character of the landscapes, as we know them today. At the same time,
the realities of pastoral life have given rise to rich cultural traditions reected in
dierent music, customs, clothing, shepherding management, architecture and
Recent decades have seen major changes. Socio-economic reasons such as
technological innovations, EU subsidies and the availability of cheap labour from
newly arrived immigrants have signicantly aected the practice and its cultural
aspects. Notably, the use of four-wheel drive vehicles has allowed transhumant
shepherds to get to their pastures faster, while in many cases the ocks are
moved between the highlands and lowland in large trucks. At the same time,
the lack of nationally designated drover roads presents serious obstacles to the
shepherds that still want to move their ocks on foot. Nevertheless, some aspects
of the hard work involved still remain the same as the sheep still have to be
tended night and day, the shearing, milking, slaughtering and skinning are still
done by hand and in most cases there is no electricity or running water in their
157 Hadjigeorgiou 2011
158 Papageorgiou 1986
Photo Credit: Women
play an important part in
transhumant life working
equally hard with men. is is
Kiki Siafarika, Avdella.
© Stamos Abatis, North
Pindos - Greece, 2014.
48 Annex: e Culture of Pastoralism in the Mediterranean
In Turkey mobile pastoralism is a major traditional practice shaping the
country´s outstanding landscapes where three of the world’s biodiversity
hotspots meet: Mediterranean, Irano-Anatolian and Caucasus159.
e rich ecosystem and habitat diversity has not only produced a considerable
diversity of species but has also shaped the culture of the peoples living there and
vice versa. With its adaptive capacity to spatial and temporal variabilities it is a
unique example of people and nature interaction in Turkey that can be traced
through its great impact on the country´s cultural diversity with the values,
institutions, artifacts/techniques, food, songs, arts and oral literature these
communities have developed.
Despite the fact that mobile pastoralism in Turkey has suered, some
communities still maintain a wisdom, a keen knowledge of the landscapes in
which they move, emerging from thousands of years of accumulated experiences.
e practice in its many dierent forms in Turkey has therefore much to oer
not only for conserving nature but also the cultural diversity and heritage of the
Photo Credit (from le to
right): Two brothers rest
before aernoon of grazing,
© Engin Ylmaz
In the evening the women
prepare food around the
open re. © Bari Koca,
50 Annex: e Culture of Pastoralism in the Mediterranean
In Lebanon pastoralism plays an important role in rural community heritage
by sustaining close social and intergenerational relationships and livelihoods.To
ensure the availability of feed between seasons, the herds move in transhumance
between the highlands and the coastal areas. Places like the Bekaa Valley are
important areas for dierent pastoral practices and associated lifestyles and
Pastoralism is also related to the hima, a traditional system of land governance
and natural resource management that can be traced back to the Arabian
Peninsula and early Islamic states. Derived from the ‘Arabic word for
“protection,” the hima originated as a community-based method of safeguarding
water resources and vegetation during times of drought and environmental
One aspect of the hima was that it was similar to an exclosure, thus preventing
grazing during times of ecological stress. Today the hima system has undergone
a revival and now protects wildlife, biodiversity, and natural resources, as well as
facilitating conservation, education, scientic research, recreation, ecotourism,
and land-use management. Transhumant grazing in the area has also increased
the number of habitats that are suitable for plants, reptiles, and insects. In 2013,
the Society for Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL) conducted a quadrant-
based oristic study in Hima Fakiha160, which is situated in the semi-arid
region of the northern Bekaa Valley. e hima was found to have a signicantly
higher number of endemic plants, approximately 1680 plant species, in a region
consisting largely of rangelands stressed by overgrazing. In addition, in the
same hima, a buttery study was undertaken, being a good biological indicator
of ecosystem health. ey are relatively well-researched, easy to identify and
monitor, and popular amongst the local populace. Butteries respond quickly
to changes in land use, including intensication and abandonment, and because
they occur in one or more generations per year, buttery populations can
change rapidly and trends can be detected in a relatively short period of time. In
Hima Fakiha, where grazing persists, about 495 species of butteries have been
detected to feed on a wide variety of the native host plants.
160 Zorkot 2015
Photo Credit (from top to
bottom): Hima Fekha Plant
Guide and Buttery Guide.
© Society for the Protection
of Nature, Lebanon.
Face of the future.
© Asaad Saleh,
52 Annex: e Culture of Pastoralism in the Mediterranean
e main characteristic of the organization of nomadic societies in Tunisia
is their tribal reference. Strong socio-cultural and economic elements link
individuals to the family, families to the fraction, and fractions to the tribe.
e rst requirement of belonging to any tribe is respect for the notion that the
honor of the tribe surpasses all individual interests. e second is the existence of
a powerful system of mutual social and economic support among the members
of the tribe. e absence of a strong agricultural, hydraulic and economic
organization would prove disastrous in a dicult climatic and ecological context
(steppe and desert of semi-arid and arid climates). Tribal customs and adaptive
practices of nomadic pastoralism have ensured survival in the toughest of
Community spirit is therefore the key notion to understanding the functioning
of the tribe. Councils of elders take decisions, arbitrate conicts and ensure the
proper functioning of collective life.
MAP SHOWING TRANSHUMANCE ROUTES IN TUNISIA
Main transhumance routes
Secondary transhumance routes
Main cities along transhumance routes
Secondary cities along transhumance
Photo Credit: A child playing
cowboy with a sheep that has
just been shorn.
© Wassim Ghozlani,
54 Annex: e Culture of Pastoralism in the Mediterranean
PASTORALISM, RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY
e diverse practices of mobile pastoralism across the Mediterranean, indeed
across the globe, have strong links with spirituality and religious tradition.
While much more research is required to explore this eld of enquiry, direct
observations conrm that this is the case.
In the most general sense, the practice in itself is a spiritual one. It inspires a
way of life that lends itself to spiritual enquiry. Mostly this is not articulated, nor
acknowledged, nor understood. When pastoralists are asked why they maintain
such a challenging way of life, the answer is oen simply because they love it. It
makes them feel ‘free’. ey have a full connection with the landscape, with the
seasons, with their animals. Freedom, love and connection are all spiritual in
nature, surpassing any particular religious tradition.
In Pablo Dominguez’s161 comparative study of transhumant communities in the
Central Spanish Pyrenees and the High Atlas of Marrakech, an interesting focus
on religious and ritual linkages is presented:
“e spiritual and the immaterial world have always had a fundamental place
in Mediterranean mountain transhumant systems. To portray this, the place of
local saints referring to transhumance and highland pastures is a particularly
sharp example of this. In fact, we generally nd these spaces under the patronage
of mythical gures and sanctities that centre the performance of pastoralist and
transhumant rituals, in order to ensure a complete and balanced management of
the villagers’ common lands.”162
Further, there are many cases where the overlap between mobile pastoral practic-
es and the related routes or landscapes can be seen. For instance in Dehesa de la
Luz, Extremadura, there is an important religious site within the Dehesa land-
scape. Every year it becomes the site of huge celebration when the Virgin of Light
(Luz) comes back to the Dehesa aer nine days in the village of Arroyo de la Luz
– a real crossroads for many of the Spanish canada (drovers’ roads).
e maintenance of mobile pastoralism therefore has great importance not only
for the culture of the regions in which it persists but also for a spirituality that is
arguably the lost key to a more sustainable future.
161 Domínguez 2016
Photo Credit: Grazing just
© Stamos Abatis, North
Pindos - Greece, 2014.
56 Annex References
Boletín Ocial del Estado (2017). Real Decreto
385/2017, de 8 de abril, por el que se declara la
Trashumancia como Manifestación Representativa
del Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial. BOE 86,
Cruz Sánchez, P.J., Escribano Velasco, C., (2013)
Patrimonio material e inmaterial de las vías
pecuarias en el entorno de la Cañada de la Plata.
Una Mirada a las manifestaciones culturales d ela
trashumancia tradicional. Junta de Castilla y León.
Domínguez, P. (2016). A Comparative Study of
Two Mediterranean Transhumant Systems and
the Biocultural Diversity Associated with them. In
M. Agnoletti and F. Emanueli (eds.), Biocultural
Diversity in Europe, Environmental History 5,
pp. 105-122. Environmental History series, Vol. 5,
ICOMOS (unpublished). Fundamentos para una
posible inscripción de la dehesa en la lista del
patrimonio mundial de UNESCO. Informe de
Hadjigeorgiou, I. (2011), Past, present and future of
pastoralism in Greece. Pastoralism: Research, Policy
and Practice 1:24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/2041-
Papageorgiou, K (1986). Agricultural cooperatives.
Evgenidio Foundation, Athens. (in Greek)
Zorkot , H. A. (2015). A Field Guide to Wildowers
of Hima Fakiha and the Adjoining Region (1st
ed.). Beirut: Society for the Protection of Nature
in Lebanon. Printing Sponsored by the Critical
Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF)
e Mediterranean Consortium for Nature And
Culture is a collective movement to support and
raise awareness for cultural practices that have a
positive impact on biodiversity.
Currently made up of 6 partners, we explore
innovative and alternate ways of approaching
nature conservation, helping to secure a more
sustainable future in the Mediterranean.
© Gema Arrugaeta