Mobile Pastoralism

Mobile pastoralism is the movement of people and livestock through the landscape in search of water and pasture, and includes different practices such as transhumance, semi-nomadic and nomadic pastoralism and certain practices of extensive grazing – all involving people, herds and movement, and all having a positive impact on biodiversity.

This 10’000 year old cultural practice which still occurs in a wide variety of forms across the Mediterranean Basin, and is important in all the Mediterranean Consortium for Nature and Culture countries, is today threatened. Below are the activities the MCNC is involved in, to help ensure this vital way of life remains robust enough to stand it’s ground in today’s world.

 

Did You Know

Drover roads and grazing areas become home to a diverse array of habitats, suitable for many plant species, small mammals, reptiles and insects.

Did You Know

Keeping one cow in ‘normal’ conditions means providing it with around 50 litres of water per day. The continued movement of herds means that they are always finding fresh grazing and natural water supplies.

Did You Know

Moving herds supply vultures, wolves and many other carnivores with an important source of food.

Did You Know

The movement of herds fertilizes the soil (3 tonnes of manure daily per 1000 sheeps or 100 cows) and spreads seeds over long distances (about 5 million seeds at 20 km every day per herd).

Did You Know

Transhumant pastoralists contribute concretely to the formation of unique landscapes and corridors that support biodiversity.

Our Activities

Our initial work consisted of analysing the state of play of the practice in our focus countries: Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Greece, Spain and Turkey.

 

Each region showed a different level of understanding: in Spain and Morocco a considerable amount of work had already been done by our partners, with Trashumancia y Naturaleza having been instrumental in reviving the long transhumance in Spain over 30 years, for example. In other countries such as Tunisia and Turkey however, little was known.

 

We wanted to understand the extent to which the practice was still thriving; the key threats to the practice and reasons for decline; how the practice was linked to biodiversity conservation goals; the needs and aspirations of practitioners and so forth, to identify ways in which we could contribute and help make a difference.

 

See the overview of this work in our report, On The Move for 10'000 Years: Biodiversity Conservation Through Transhumance and Nomadic Pastoralism in the Mediterranean.

One key threat to the maintenance of mobile pastoralism are policies and legislations that can be obstructive to pastoralism. Linked to this, we found a need to advocate for the practice at international level and ensure that countries are aware of both the benefits of the practice and the threats to it. Our projects have been working on both issues.

 

The key detrimental policy that we have been working on, particularly through Trashumancia y Naturaleza, is the European Union’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

Advocacy work has been underway at a number of levels – both in terms of celebration of the practice through art and culture (see On the Move and One Square Meter) and technical presentations at a wide variety of international, national and regional fora. We have not only been targeting policy makers at government level, but also the conservation community and the climate change community. Awareness still needs to be built at all levels.

 

For an in-depth look at policy issues related to mobile pastoralism see Mobile Pastoralism in the Mediterranean: Arguments and evidence for policy reform and its role in combating climate change.

We wanted to know which migration routes are still used – where they are, the obstacles to maintaining them, what links they had with places of high biodiversity - so we began a mapping exercise that is both highly challenging and rewarding.

 

Even in Spain, where most work has been done, we did not have a full picture of the transhumance routes available. In Turkey, for instance, this work has been undertaken from scratch by our partner Yolda Initiative who met in person near to 200 nomadic families and drew their routes with them.

 

This work, which is a critical contribution to current knowledge on the practice of mobile pastoralism continues today.

Linked to the mapping of pastoral migration routes, we wanted to find out what links there are with areas of high biodiversity. We are currently correlating the migration routes with different types of Protected Areas (Key Biodiversity Areas, Important Bird Areas, Important Plant Areas and so on) with fascinating results!

 

In some places there is good collaboration between protected areas and mobile pastoralism. However others see conflict, a phenomenon happening worldwide.

As the team works with pastoralist communities and families, we gain insights into their knowledge of the landscape and biodiversity - yet another reason for maintaining this practice. We have documented this knowledge through house of filming – with more indepth films produced by some of our partner countries (Turkey, Greece).

 

Browse our video archive >

In order to amplify our messages on the ground, we decided to use art and culture to celebrate the lives and traditional ecological knowledge of mobile pastoralists.

 

To date, our creative communications have been centered around a travelling photography exhibition, On The Move, and a needle felt sculpture, One Square Meter, which have in turn generated interest in our work through articles, interviews, requests for collaboration and more.

 

The creative outputs have been instrumental in helping the general public all over the Mediterranean, and further afield, appreciate the immense service mobile pastoralists provide and the hardships they face just to live their lives.

 

Read our articles:
On the Move: Reawakening the Common Language of the Mediterranean’s Mobile Pastoralists - Written for Langscapes Magazine
One Square Meter: Wool Art Honors the Biocultural Diversity of Mobile Pastoralists - Written for Langscapes Magazine

1. Research on the state of play in MC focus countries

Our initial work consisted of analysing the state of play of the practice in our focus countries: Tunisia, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Greece, Spain and Turkey.

Each region showed a different level of understanding: in Spain and Morocco a considerable amount of work had already been done by our partners, with Trashumancia y Naturaleza having been instrumental in reviving the long transhumance in Spain over 30 years, for example. In other countries such as Tunisia and Turkey however, little was known.

We wanted to understand the extent to which the practice was still thriving; the key threats to the practice and reasons for decline; how the practice was linked to biodiversity conservation goals; the needs and aspirations of practitioners and so forth, to identify ways in which we could contribute and help make a difference.

See the overview of this work in our report, On The Move for 10’000 Years: Biodiversity Conservation Through Transhumance and Nomadic Pastoralism in the Mediterranean.

2. Policy and advocacy

One key threat to the maintenance of mobile pastoralism are policies and legislations that can be obstructive to pastoralism. Linked to this, we found a need to advocate for the practice at international level and ensure that countries are aware of both the benefits of the practice and the threats to it. Our projects have been working on both issues.

The key detrimental policy that we have been working on, particularly through Trashumancia y Naturaleza, is the European Union’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

Advocacy work has been underway at a number of levels – both in terms of celebration of the practice through art and culture (see On the Move and One Square Meter) and technical presentations at a wide variety of international, national and regional fora. We have not only been targeting policy makers at government level, but also the conservation community and the climate change community. Awareness still needs to be built at all levels.

For an in-depth look at policy issues related to mobile pastoralism see Mobile Pastoralism in the Mediterranean: Arguments and evidence for policy reform and its role in combating climate change.

3, Mapping Routes

We wanted to know which migration routes are still used – where they are, the obstacles to maintaining them, what links they had with places of high biodiversity – so we began a mapping exercise that is both highly challenging and rewarding.

Even in Spain, where most work has been done, we did not have a full picture of the transhumance routes available. In Turkey, for instance, this work has been undertaken from scratch by our partner Yolda Initiative who met in person near to 200 nomadic families and drew their routes with them.

This work, which is a critical contribution to current knowledge on the practice of mobile pastoralism continues today.

4. Mobile pastoralism and protected areas

Linked to the mapping of pastoral migration routes, we wanted to find out what links there are with areas of high biodiversity. We are currently correlating the migration routes with different types of Protected Areas (Key Biodiversity Areas, Important Bird Areas, Important Plant Areas and so on) with fascinating results!

In some places there is good collaboration between protected areas and mobile pastoralism. However others see conflict, a phenomenon happening worldwide.

5. Traditional Ecological Knowledge

As the team works with pastoralist communities and families, we gain insights into their knowledge of the landscape and biodiversity – yet another reason for maintaining this practice. We have documented this knowledge through house of filming – with more indepth films produced by some of our partner countries (Turkey, Greece).

Browse our video archive >

6. Celebration

In order to amplify our messages on the ground, we decided to use art and culture to celebrate the lives and traditional ecological knowledge of mobile pastoralists.

To date, our creative communications have been centered around a travelling photography exhibition, On The Move, and a needle felt sculpture, One Square Meter, which have in turn generated interest in our work through articles, interviews, requests for collaboration and more.

The creative outputs have been instrumental in helping the general public all over the Mediterranean, and further afield, appreciate the immense service mobile pastoralists provide and the hardships they face just to live their lives.

Read our articles:
On the Move: Reawakening the Common Language of the Mediterranean’s Mobile Pastoralists – Written for Langscapes Magazine
One Square Meter: Wool Art Honors the Biocultural Diversity of Mobile Pastoralists – Written for Langscapes Magazine

On The Move

On The Move is a travelling photography exhibition celebrating the lives, challenges and ecological knowledge of mobile pastoralists in five Mediterranean regions: North Africa, the Middle East, the Iberian Peninsula, Turkey and Greece.

The exhibition began its journey at the Bardo Museum in Tunis (Tunisia), and has since visited 12 cities across the Mediterranean (over a span of 3 years) where it has not only been a special feature at museums (Bardo Musuem – Tunis, Museum of Geneva – Geneva, Averoff Museum -Metsovo, CerModern – Ankara), but helped make the case for Mobile Pastoralism at congresses (IUCN WCC in Hawai’i, COP 22 Marrakech) and government (9e Arrondissement – Paris, Parliament of Extremadura – Spain), and touched the hearts of the public in cultural spaces (Byblos Cultural Center – Byblos, Royal Botanical Gardens – Madrid, Michael Cacoyannis Foundation – Athens).

At each venue audiences have been moved by poignant images of mobile pastoralists and their way of life.

The exhibition has been instrumental in helping us open dialogues with peers, other conservationists and academics, media and educators, and mobile pastoralists themselves who often feel undervalued, unworthy and unimportant. It’s our aim that through celebrations such as On The Move we can start to change perceptions not just for the conservation world but all of society.

One Square Meter

One Square Meter is a needle-felt sculpture made from Merino sheep wool (a breed of sheep used for mobile pastoralism in Spain) highlighting the very tangible link between mobile pastoralism and biodiversity; a visual representation of one our key arguments – that one square meter of land where mobile pastoralism occurs can house up to 40 different species of plants.

The installation launched at On The Move Hawai’I (a special edition of the exhibition shown at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress in 2016) and has since been requested at various important workshops, including WWF Spain’s “Dehesa Viva”, and now graces the Parliament of Extremadura where it is accessible to the public as an iconic landmark.

The response to One Square Meter has been overwhelmingly positive, encouraging growth and expansion of the project itself with possible links to the development of rural economies.