Pastoralist Knowledge Hub

Taking European pastoralism forward, one step at a time

31/10/2018 -

Although agricultural policies in Europe can be thought of as being more comprehensive than in some other places of the world, pastoralists in Europe face several challenges akin to pastoralists from other parts of the world. With the aim of promoting knowledge and recognition of pastoralism, the European Shepherds Network (ESN) brings together several pastoralist organizations to propose technical and economic strategies for sustainable development of European territories. Having overcome certain organizational challenges, ESN called for the 4th European Pastoralists Assembly in Oloron St Marie on September 15. 

It is a common sight to see a flock of sheep or a herd of cattle grazing on low grasses across Europe. European pastoralists are known for their produce and artisanal products such as beef, cheese and wool. Yet challenges such as relentless agricultural intensification, declining infrastructure and lack of services have made it difficult for transhumant households to earn enough income and remain competitive. The pastoralists also deal with diverse claims on their commons, including for recreational use or wild animal repopulation. While agricultural policies should aim to support rural communities, these factors are leading especially the youth to abandon pastoralism.

The ESN unites pastoralist organizations from across Europe to propose improvements for policies and public action to address these challenges. As a pan-European network, it hopes to define a clear and common objective to be brought before national, regional and international institutions, such as to address issues with the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union. According to Nicola di Niro, representative of the Italian pastoralist organization Fondazione Uomini e Territori, ESN is an excellent platform for European transhumance to be recognized as cultural heritage by UNESCO. Such a formal recognition would pave the way for greater interest from funding institutions and, thus, to more “material” opportunities for pastoralists, like the planning and management of “greenways” (to be used by tourists, bicycles and herders) along the ancient transhumance routes crossing Europe from Portugal to Turkey.

Following the Koblenz assembly in 2015, FAO continued in its support to the ESN by facilitating the participation of several pastoralist representatives, especially from eastern Europe that continue to remain underrepresented despite having large pastoralist populations. With participants from 12 European countries, the meeting presented an opportunity to reorganize, enlarge and revitalize the network. The new participants infused new energies within the network and broadened its scope. For more information regarding the meeting, including the network's declaration, please see here