Extensive livestock models are crucial for the sustainable maintenance of important rural zones in Europe. These models are the paradigm of ecological, social and economic sustainability; they combat depopulation in rural areas and have a positive impact on animal welfare and human health when compared with other non-extensive models. Moreover, these models supply consumers with quality food products in many territories of the EU and promote the sustainable development of our society.
The future of these livestock production models is currently threatened by the effects of climate change and administrative hurdles (drought, problems of animal health, increase in parasites, administrative constraints on transhumance, etc) and it depends enormously on the availability and capacity of extensive herders.
Herders are the key actors and the basis of extensive livestock activity, and they perform innumerable functions in rural areas which are deprived and thinly populated. But the problem is that it is getting harder and harder to find properly trained herders who possess the knowledge and experience necessary to cope with all aspects of extensive grazing of livestock. Herders are an ageing social group: younger people do not have the proper training, education or experience and these days there is no incentive to become a herder because of their low social status and the lack of any specific professional training offering.
Although they are an important element in rural societies, herders do not enjoy social recognition, and in many cases they do not have access to properly structured, methodical and validated training for sustainable management of extensive farming.
On foot of all this, the project EU4SHEPHERDS seeks to improve and update the training available for extensive herders, taking into account the current barriers (which are principally administrative) and the future ones (new climatic scenario and its consequences), as well as the opportunities (trends in organic production, agrotourism, etc.) to ensure sustainable maintenance of extensive livestock operations in their economic, social and environmental dimensions, and giving these workers tools for resilience.
Thus, the project will adapt the training methods (both for trainers and trainees) to offer work-based training, taking into account the current barriers and the logistical problems of extensive herders (many of whom are distributed in isolated rural areas) to guarantee the sustainability of the profession and of extensive livestock models. Further, the project will provide an empowerment platform for extensive herders (not accustomed to complicated interfaces or texts) and will promote the use of digital tools to empower them.
The organisation leading the consortium of entities conducting the project is the CESEFOR Foundation (Spain), accompanied by the partners Monte Mediterráneo Foundation (Spain) Raumberg-Gumpenstein Agricultural Research and Education Centre (Austria), University College of Agrarian and Environmental Studies of Vienna (Austria), Agricultural University of Plovdiv (Bulgaria), Lower Saxony Chamber of Agriculture (Germany), Association for the Integrated Development of the Mountain Village Network (Associação de Desenvolvimento Integrado da Rede das Aldeias de Montanha – ADIRAM) (Portugal), AGROM-RO Association (Romania) and Archnetwork (Scotland).