Pastoralist Knowledge Hub


A wide variety of transhumant pastoral systems are practiced in many European countries where herds are moved according to seasonal cycles in these highland-lowland systems.

It is estimated that the area of land under grazing management may exceed 30 million hectares. In the Iberian Peninsula, between Spain and Portugal, there are over 3 million hectares of dehesas/montados or wood pastures. In Central and Eastern Europe, nearly 7 million hectares of the Carpathian Mountains are covered by open semi-natural grassland habitats created and maintained by traditional shepherding systems. In addition, there is cross border transhumance for example, between France and Italy and Italy and Switzerland in the Alps, as well as between France and Spain through the Pyrenees. Many of these areas are managed in common through customary cooperative systems, such as by the Rechtler_innen in Germany, and traditional transhumance networks are still used and often protected by the government, such as the Vías Precarias in Spain and the Tratturi in Italy. 

Pastoralism remains effective mostly in mountainous areas, drylands, and islands where the alternative costs for land and labour make this a convenient option compared to other forms of land use.

In the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of countries such as Sweden, Norway and Russia, reindeer herding is practiced, prominently by the Saami herders, but also by other communities.

Pastoralism in Europe is supported by the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP). Besides generating food and other products, transhumance in Europe provides a range of public goods and services that are often highly valued by broader society. These include preservation of picturesque cultural landscapes that support tourism; protection of biodiversity; carbon sequestration; fire resilience (e.g. prevention of shrub invasion, or drove roads serving as fire breaks); and a range of social goods, such as cultural diversity and people’s sense of regional identity.

Yet, the livelihood faces challenges from underinvestment leading to declining infrastructures, disruption of transhumance routes, promotion of agricultural intensification, an ageing population leading to a reduction in pastoralism or the abandonment of pastoral activities altogether, conflicts with nature conservation, and poor services delivery in rural areas. 

The Pastoralist Knowledge Hub has supported:

  • The regional European Shepherds Network in capacity building, advocacy initiatives and improved governance.
  • In June 2015, a regional meeting of pastoral representatives from 17 European countries in Koblenz, Germany.
  • In 2018, another regional meeting of civil society with representatives from 12 countries in Oloron St. Marie, France, with support for inclusion of members from Eastern Europe that were not included before.
  • Regional advocacy initiatives such as FAO -CIHEAM for Mediterranean pastoralism, as well as support for advocacy for the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Hub participated in the World Congress of the Association of World Reindeer Herders in Sweden in August 2017. The European Shepherds Network and the Association of World Reindeer Herders are part of the global pastoralist network, the World Alliance for Mobile and Indigenous People.