Shepherds for climate: Is animal husbandry always harmful to the planet?
The annual report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock, oil and gas drilling, fracking, landfills, etc. are major sources of methane emissions according to the IPCC. But in the public/media/political debate, we must differentiate between the various sources to achieve a more informed and fairer debate on the necessary climate action. That is why WAMIP has conducted a scientific study together with the international team of PASTRES researchers and published the report “Is livestock farming always harmful to the planet?“
Not all greenhouse gases are the same. While methane has a short-lived warming effect, CO2 remains forever. In addition, emissions from livestock systems are widely varied and we must differentiate between intensive and extensive systems. Mobile pastoral and extensive livestock systems can be in CO2 emissions balance, and their methane emissions are not additional as they have levels similar to those of the wildlife systems they replace. However, intensive livestock farming is a polluter of CO2 and methane and therefore, we from the pastoralist movement are in favor of its dismantling and penalization.
It is essential to reduce greenhouse gases, but not all sources are equal: grazing, industrial livestock farming or fracking are not the same. Extensive livestock systems support large numbers of people, provide high quality animal products, and can be beneficial to the climate (improving soil fertility or preventing fires).
Therefore, we support emission reductions while addressing Climate Justice issues and recognize pastoralism and extensive livestock farming not as part of the problem of climate change, but as part of the solution.
Reinventing an ancestral way of life: Shepherd schools
Faced with the threat of the disappearance of shepherding in the mountain areas of Spain, the non-profit organization Campo Adentro-INLAND initiated a system of theoretical and practical training in 2004, aimed at both young people interested in shepherding and active shepherds, enabling the integration of new shepherds and ensuring generational replacement. Hundreds of people have been trained with about 70 applicants each year.
On the one hand, the school trains people to start their own livestock project with agroecological orientation, and to develop their activity with new approaches to economic viability and added value to the product.
Likewise, people who have followed this training will be equipped with the necessary knowledge to work as salaried workers in those livestock farms that require workers, or for the execution of environmental services such as firebreak maintenance.
On the other hand, courses have been offered to active shepherds to improve their cheese making skills or other things that are in demand, as well as training and exchange trips.
The theoretical module is followed by a practical portion of work with the herd-school of Campo Adentro INLAND, which has a branch in the mountains of Madrid and one in the north of the peninsula. Recently, a Junior Shepherd School for children has been established, and also a system of free training scholarships for undocumented migrants interested in this way of life.
Once the students finish the theory and practice, they have to deliver an operational project, which has been tutored throughout the course.
At this point, the School provides the graduate student with support and guidance in the procedures and possible access to land. It is important to take an active role in the incorporation of the student, promoting land stewardship schemes among the different producers with whom they have been in contact, formulas for the transfer of ownership under leases, etc. in cases of early retirement, transfer, social economy formulas, cooperativism, etc.
Gender and pastoralism
In 2010, WAMIP called for a Global Gathering of Women Pastoralists, in Mera (Gujarat), India bringing together over 100 women from herding communities scattered across 32 different countries to discuss the myriad of problems faced by nomadic and semi-nomadic women pastoralists worldwide, and how, united, they can strive to solve them. Participants at the Gathering identified key issues, including markets, rules and rights, environment, social movement, education, and, health, as well as a number of priorities for action, such as representation, communication and networking, education and capacity building, and advocacy. They also selected representatives to draft the Mera Declaration to inform and support the development of pastoralist policies, and also to demonstrate commitment to environmental sustainability and protection of biodiversity and common resources for future generations.
Since then, progress has been made in linking the struggles of pastoralist women within the framework of the demands of the feminist movement. The extensive livestock and pastoralist women claim our value both within the sector and in society, fighting to exercise our way of life without inequalities, and constitute a network of mutual support as a space for resistance and awareness-raising. The health and social crisis caused by the pandemic brought ongoing ureflections on care and essential work. Now it is even more necessary to recognize the activity of shepherdesses and livestock breeders who, from their territories, maintain life and highlight the great potential and enormous capacity of women’s networks to face adversities. We need to show the work of these women in caring for and reproducing the basis of life, from the countryside and for society.
Female livestock breeders and pastoralists are defending sorority, demanding the abolition of all inequalities suffered by those who feel themselves to be women in a patriarchal and capitalist context. They defend the right not to be violated, assaulted, raped, murdered; to equal pay, in decision-making, in access to land, in the distribution of care; to decide on their way of life, sexuality and reproduction, whatever their age, origin or citizenship; and to exercise and be considered valid as farmers and herders, and not mere “companions” or “helpers” of the men with whom they work.
We demand a liveable rural environment, with basic services guaranteed for all: health, education, public transportation, culture, care for dependent persons, access to land, decent housing and accessible services for the prevention of gender-based violence.
As pastoralist women, we demand an environmentalism that considers us as active elements in the region, allies of biodiversity and guarantors of natural environments. Extensive livestock farming is essential for the maintenance of ecosystems, forest maintenance, fire prevention and improvement of pastures, as well as for the struggle for food sovereignty. All this from a feminist way of working, putting the welfare of our herds and the territory we inhabit ahead of economic results, focusing the way we treat them from the care and respect for their needs, a relationship of care that extends to the people we feed with the meat, milk or dairy products we produce.
In a capitalist and ultraliberal framework, we are led to believe that it is no longer necessary to claim our rights, that the rural world is a consumer good, and that work in the rural environment and how it is approached, such as extensive livestock and pastoralism, is not productive and has no future. Rural women are the present, and they will be the future. They will become stronger and stronger. We women are and will be the front line.
The World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous Peoples and Pastoralists – WAMIP on the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists – IYRP
A few years ago, some entities working on grassland ecology (such as the University of Arizona, ILRI, etc.) launched the idea of campaigning for a declaration of a UN Year on Rangelands. More organisations adhered and it was proposed the year should also include the recognition of pastoralists as custodians of rangelands. This year, 38 countries and 300 organisations are supporting the IYRP. The Mongolian Government presented the request for an IYRP designation at an open session of the October 2018 COAG meeting of FAO in Rome and the proposal was approved without reservations. The proposal has since also been approved by the FAO Council and FAO Conference. A final vote will be held at the UN General Assembly in Fall 2021.
As grassroot organisations composing the global alliance of WAMIP, we express our support to the initiative calling for an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (IYRP), as stated in the letter addressed to the Government of Mongolia.
Since its inception within various networks, mainly composed by grassland and rangelands researchers and environmental entities, we welcomed the incorporation of the crucial element of the pastoralist peoples as the most affected by the policies governing rangelands and effective caretakers of them for millennia.
We have witnessed how this call has gathered enormous support from a wide range of organisations, as we can see in the growing number of members joining the RISG globally and in the defined regions. For a good progression of this endeavour, it would be important to make sure that an open definition of what is considered as rangelands is included in all materials and declarations: not only grasslands, but also forests, and crop lands after harvesting. As important as the rangelands definition so is the connectivity amongst them: sheep trails and cattle droves and effective mobility rights are crucial to ensure rangelands’ sustainable use.
On the governance of the IYRP process, we would like to open a process and specific working group to look at how the RISG are being constituted and operate in each region, in consideration of existing pastoralist networks and their recognition and centrality in the process. It is important to ensure pastoralists positions chairing and co-chairing each regional RISG, to be determined in agreement with WAMIP. For example, a process of previous consultation and agreement with pastoralist representatives in any decision or step regarding the IYRP.
When the IYRP is approved, there will be a need to implement actions surrounding it from now until 2026, actions that should be agreed and based on the pastoralist movement’s concerns and priorities, as, at this moment, the empowerment of the management capacities of pastoralist coordination at regional level is crucial.
 The report is available at: https://wamipglobal.com/2021/09/26/pastoralist-movements-takes-part-in-the-report-are-livestock-bad-for-the-planet/
 WAMIP brought an international delegation of nomads to Glasgow to participate in the official COP26 negotiations as well as the protests, including a sheep demonstration, and issuing a press release.