Mobile Pastoralism in the Mediterranean: arguments and evidence for policy reform and its role in combating climate change

The many benefits of mobile pastoralismi in the Mediterranean, and the world over, are detailed in a new report from the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture. This 10’000 year old practice, forgotten or lost in some places, may actually be a retro-innovative system of livestock management critical for the sustainability of our planet.

“Mobile pastoralism is one of the most efficient livestock farming systems. Its role is essential in achieving some of the most sustainable diets, with attention to animal welfare, and is critical for the future of our planet. Not only does it capture soil carbon and produce high quality, healthy food; without it, we would not be able to maintain its associated diverse ecosystems, beautiful landscapes and rich and fascinating cultural heritage” said co-author, Concha Salguero of Trashumancia y Naturalezaii, Spanish partner of the MCNCiii and an organisation that has been successfully contributing to the revival of the long-distance transhumance on foot in Spain for the past 30 years.

However, in spite of the clear benefits it offers, including solutions to some of the modern world’s most pressing problems, mobile pastoralism the world over is often mistakenly perceived as unsustainable. This misunderstanding of the practice has resulted in legislation and policies that undermine it and created hurdles to its sustainability. This, in turn, continues to result in widespread environmental deterioration and the aggravation of misperceptions.

“Harmful policies originate in poor understandings of pastoralist livelihoods and interventions designed externally with little consultation with pastoralists” said co-author Pablo Manzano Baenaiv, independent international expert on pastoralist systems. “This document, well-referenced by updated scientific research, constitutes a good guide for positive policies and wider pastoralist involvement”.

Following years of studies and field-work on mobile pastoralism in the Mediterranean, the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture’s project coordinator, and director of DiversEarthv, Liza Zogib concluded: “we hope that this report, outlining the many benefits of the practice will go some way to fostering a different way of viewing the practice of pastoralism in the Mediterranean and to securing legislation that is informed and supportive instead of ill-informed and destructive”.

Mobile Pastoralism in the Mediterranean: arguments and evidence for policy reform and its role in combating climate change is available for download here in English, French and Spanish.

i Mobile pastoralism is a catch-all term that encompasses transhumance, semi-nomadic and nomadic pastoralism, and some practices of extensive grazing, where people and their livestock move on foot through the landscape in search of pasture and water.

ii Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza (TyN), created in 1997, works to support and promote transhumance, extensive farming and pastoral systems in Spain, which are all traditional practices that help maintain key ecosystems and the services they provide. The recovery of 125.000 kms worth of drovers´roads is a main objective, as these key biodiversity corridors help avoid the fragmentation of valuable protected areas (such as Natura 2000 and High Natura Value areas).

TyN is one of the founding partners of the Spanish Platform for Extensive Grazing and Pastoralism and the Mediterranen Consortium for Nature and Culture (MCNC), and is also a member of the Spanish Association of Communal systems Iniciativa Comunales.

iii The Mediterranean Consortium for Nature & Culture (MCNC), is a collective movement to support and raise awareness for cultural practices that have a positive impact on biodiversity in the Mediterranean. Currently made up of 6 partners, the MCNC works with communities to protect biodiversity by understanding, supporting and helping safeguard ways of living that contribute to the conservation of the Mediterranean’s rich natural and cultural heritage and the sustainable use of its resources – celebrating the ingenuity of people across the Basin who protect and manage their lands and waters.

The partners that make up the MCNC are: DiversEarth, the Mediterranean Institute of Nature and Anthropos (MedINA), the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), Trashumancia y Naturaleza, WWF North Africa and Yolda.

iv Pablo Manzano Baena is aPhD in Rangeland Ecology, and an international consultant on livestock and the environment with more than 15 years’ experience working on development cooperation, scientific research and rural development projects in countries such as Spain, New Zealand, United States, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Mongolia, Turkey and several African countries. He is the former coordinator of the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism at IUCN in Kenya, and later the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub at FAO in Italy. Pablo has also collaborated with different media in Spain.

v DiversEarth is Swiss based NGO working with people who, through their lifestyles, cultures and beliefs, protect nature and its resources. They do this by working with custodians of lands and waters to enhance the protection, management, and restoration of Sacred Natural Sites; by supporting and celebrating innovative cultural practices that benefit nature and biodiversity around the world; and by engaging with faith-based leaders, communities and networks to find culturally appropriate ways of protecting the natural world.

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