Skip to main content

Tra_Med - patterns of pastoral migrations in the Mediterranean region

Final Report Summary - TRA_MED (Tra_Med - patterns of pastoral migrations in the Mediterranean region)

TRAMed : Transhumances in the Mediterranean –
EU Marie Curie contract ES 706/2014 # 326814
Michele NORI, Migration Policy Centre;
TRAMed website:

Despite consistent political and financial engagement, the agricultural sector and rural areas in the EU suffer from population decline and ageing, particularly in mountainous areas and marginal territories, which cover about a third of southern EU lands. This phenomenon is being counterbalanced by the arrival of migrants who provide skilled labour at a relatively low cost, and help maintaining such territories alive and productive.

TRAMed investigated on the specific role on immigrants in the agro-pastoral sector which characterises land use in most marginal territories in Mediterranean EU. Opposite to the idea that migratory flows challenge local traditions and identities, it is in fact through foreign foresters and shepherds that euro-Mediterranean landscapes are maintained, and valuable food products and environmental services in current times. TRAMed outcomes and products contributed informing a number of academic and policy debates, towards better informed and evidence-based decision-making at various levels with a view to enhance a smart, sustainable and inclusive rural development – as to the EU 2020 vision.

Keywords: pastoralism, Mediterranean, migration, agriculture, generational renewal, CAP

Agriculture implies food production and land management, two basic functions of any society and civilisation. In third millennium Europe, such activities are increasingly carried out by foreign workers, who contribute their skills and experience to a sector that shows limited attractiveness to new European generations. While such phenomenon is visible throughout the European Union it has a particularly relevance in the Euro-Mediterranean context, where agricultural represents a main pillar of the socio-cultural and economic identities, and the region has only recently turned from and area of emigration to one of immigration.
Inspired by the framework proposed by F. Braudel, who described the Mediterranean as a “mosaic of peoples” and its mountains “lands of migration” - TRAMed research initiative investigated recent evolutions in the workforce of agro-pastoral systems in Mediterranean EU. The pastoral world - extensive livestock husbandry - provides in fact a consistent framework to assess and analyse territorial polarization and sectoral restructuring the EU southern rims have undergone in recent decades. While in fact this practice is increasingly appreciated for its quality products and socio-ecosystem services, agro-pastoralism suffers consistently from lack of workforce as well as generational renewal problems. The growing societal appreciation of pastoralism is not reflected by adequate improvements in the living and working conditions of shepherds. As a result local rural youth tends to rather opt for more urban-based livelihoods.

As a result EU pasturelands witness an increasing presence of immigrant shepherds originating from pastoral communities in other parts of the Mediterranean, the Maghreb and the Balkans, but also from the Carpathian regions. Immigrant shepherds have come fill this manpower gap, contributing skilled labour and adaptability at a relatively low cost. The conditions these immigrants operate in are often extremely hard and precarious, but cases of virtuous contracts and dignified conditions are also reported. This phenomenon seems to reproduce mobility patterns that have characterized Mediterranean pastoralism in the last century. Problems though exist in integrating and upgrading such workforce in the sector with a view to tackle generational renewal problems – a matter of concern for the overall EU agrarian world. Immigrants’ large presence in agro-pastoralism attests to the relevance of the migratory phenomenon in keeping mountain territories alive and productive, as well as to its critical role in maintaining traditional practices and reproducing local identities.

TRAMed has contributed developing a more effective understanding of the opportunities, the risks and the difficulties related to the increasing presence of immigrants in the agro-pastoral domain, with the aim to contribute to developing appropriate policies at local as well as at European levels. TRAMed investigations evolved through a specific set of case studies with more than a hundred interviews in different pastoral regions of Greece, Italy, Spain and southern France, with a view to specifically examine the presence, contribution and role of immigrant shepherds to local agro-pastoral sector in a comparative, regional perspective. Other complementary investigations addressed the impact of such phenomenon on migrants’ origin communities in Tunisia and Romania through a co-development approach.

In a time when society seems afraid that migrants’ flows challenge and undermine local culture and traditions, evidence shows instead that in many rural areas in Europe immigrants play a key role in maintaining and reproducing local societies and their embedded heritage. As the migrant workforce contributes to enhancing the resilience of the agriculture sector, opportunities are explored to better enhance their integration and graduation into the agrarian world. In such perspective TRAMed suggests that a proactive attitude is needed to facilitate the evolution of these workers to more entrepreneurial levels, so to enhance their long-term integration with view to ensure their contribution to the future of European agro-pastoralism.

Tables and Pictures attached