Innovation and pastoral systems for sustainable development

Identify, test and support successful initiatives and models in the pastoral and extensive livestock sector in different Mediterranean countries. This is the main objective of the international project. Pastinnova, promoted by Ciheam Zaragoza and funded by the European Union’s Mediterranean agricultural research programme.

The initiative, which began in May 2022 and will last for 3 years, focuses on a way of production and life that has deep roots and a very important tradition throughout the Mediterranean basin. “It has been a factor that has shaped our landscapes and countryside for centuries. But for decades, it has faced serious threats.“And what we are looking for is to confirm that extensive small- or medium-scale livestock farming has a future, that there are ideas and innovation and that it offers an alternative to produce extraordinary food, in a way that is respectful of the environment. And, above all, that it can sustain the lives of those who dedicate themselves to it in so many rural areas of these countries,” explains Antonio López-Francos, manager of Cooperative Projects and Networks at Ciheam Zaragoza.

A total of 20 organizations from 12 countries – Algeria, Cyprus, Croatia, Slovenia, Spain, France, Greece (which coordinates), Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey – are part of Pastinnova, which allows it to have a huge variety of means and forms of pastoral livestock farming.

Last month, Ciheam Zaragoza held an advanced course on innovation in pastoral systems in Mediterranean areas.

The work began with the identification of 100 cases of innovation and the formation of study and discussion groups. In parallel, two lines of study were established. The first is environmental, to assess the ecosystem services provided by livestock farming in order to clarify, recognise and measure them, and also to measure greenhouse gas emissions from production systems. And a second line dedicated to the analysis of markets and consumers when presenting products from this type of livestock and elucidating attributes, thus creating differentiations with a real basis.

“The agrarian, territorial and environmental policies that affect pastoralism and A white paper on Mediterranean pastoralism will be produced with ideas that will help create more favourable policies for these production systems and for local innovations in the territories”adds López-Francos, who highlights that Ciheam Zaragoza is responsible for the dissemination and transfer of the project results and the exchange of knowledge.

Boosting depopulated areas

Another interesting aspect of the initiative is its contribution to the development of mountainous areas, which are largely suffering from depopulation. “It is a source of work and income in these areas, and an activity that, well carried out, integrates perfectly into the mountain territories and keeps them in good ecological conditions.avoiding bush invasion and uncontrolled vegetation growth, preventing fires and increasing biodiversity,” says the expert, who hopes that the project will help in the objective of finding ways to make extensive and pastoral livestock farming an attractive and profitable activity. “All this with the aim of making it a job with a minimum of comfort, adapted to the lifestyle of the 21st century and that maintains the lives of shepherds and shepherdesses with dignity in terms of income, comfort, conciliation and social image,” he adds.

The project works on the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, economic and social.

Last month, Ciheam Zaragoza held an advanced course on innovation in pastoral systems in Mediterranean areas that lasted 10 days and was attended by 31 young professionals from all these countries in Zaragoza and the Pyrenees. “The conclusions we drew were that there are many young people, prepared and willing to professionally support the world of pastoralism. We received more than 120 applications, but we were only able to receive 31 people due to space, budget and course design limitations. In addition, it served to highlight the dynamism of the actors involved in pastoralism in the Mediterranean countries and in Aragon in particular. Not only livestock farmers and shepherds, but also people who innovate from organizations, collaborative projects or research,” says López Francos.

Association and regulation

Establishing a common network of pastoral actors to create solutions for farmers’ organisations and agricultural management and working on the three pillars of sustainability (environmental, economic and social) are other hallmarks of the initiative. In this sense, The associative and organizational part is key, as is the regulatory environment.

At the Pastinnova meetings in Zaragoza, those responsible for Ciheam They have transferred the advanced examples that Aragon offers in the organization of producersamong which the Pastores Group stands out.

“The most intense work is with women. The task is to ask them and bring to light their needs and aspirations, try to give them more visibility and support them in their projects.”

Special attention is also paid to three vulnerable groups: migrant workers, rural youth and women ranchers and shepherds. “The most intense work in this regard is with women. The task is to ask them and bring to light their needs and aspirations, try to give them more visibility and support them in their projects,” says the professional, who highlights that They would like the shepherdesses and the technicians and researchers from Lebanon and Turkey to be able to come and visit Spain to learn about what their fellow cattle and shepherd colleagues do here in order to train, support and undertake ideas.“Our ambition is that a trip like this can leave its mark on them, that it can give them ideas and vision so that they can develop more things when they return to their countries,” concludes López-Francos.

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