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Herding in a Shifting Mediterranean Changing agro-pastoral livelihoods in the Mashreq & Maghreb region


  • Michele Nori
  • Mohamed El Mourid
  • Ali Nefzaoui
  • Pamela Giorgi


Pastoralism is a characteristic livelihood system for the whole Mediterranean basin. From Morocco to Turkey, from Sardinia to Libya, herding societies are a common feature of all countries and civilisations that have inhabited the region. Though the material and symbolic wealth of pastoral groups is an integral part to the Mediterranean livelihood as well as cultural systems (i.e. milk, lambs, transhumance, etc…), these societies have long suffered various forms of socio-political and economic marginalisation. While the lands and environments herders insisted upon have become a main target for modernization policies, from natural reserve to farming expansion, from mining exploitation to livestock market off-takes, their rights have been seldom acknowledged and their technical skills and institutional capacities hardly recognized. Recently, low population density, remoteness and political marginality have made pastoral areas the prime targets for state retrenchment under Structural Adjustment Programs and cuts to public budgets. On the other side important potentials exist for a fairer development of these communities, such as the increasing consumption demand for animal proteins, together with the recognition of pastoralism as an environmental-friendly natural resource management, and processes of enhanced autonomy and local participation in political decision-making offered by recent reforms implying decentralisation and devolution. During the last decades, access to and control of resources in pastoral areas have gone through specific transformation processes, which have reshaped to a large extent pastoralists dependence on their natural resource base and enhanced integration into state and market dynamics. Yet the outcomes of these processes are yet to prove beneficial to pastoral communities, whose sense of marginalisation, disillusionment and resentment towards state or regional institutions is an important element that helps explaining to an extent processes of political radicalisation in many pastoral regions. As a result, pastoral groups seem increasingly exposed to climatic vagaries, increasingly trapped in the vicious circle characterised by high levels of food insecurity, conflict and environmental degradation. Within the climate change framework the vulnerability of these communities to extremes climatic events, i.e. drought, is being increasingly acknowledged (WISP, 2007). This paper addresses the dynamics perceived, the problems faced and the applied coping strategies by some pastoral communities inhabiting the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. With case studies from Morocco and Tunisia and a wider regional analysis which also include cases from Jordan, Syria and Palestine, this paper addresses the shifting vulnerability of pastoral communities under changing environmental and socio-political domains. An innovative participatory tool, the historical livelihood matrix is presented and brought into discussion as an appropriate tool which enables discussing livelihood dynamics in an historical perspective, taking into account the gender as well as generational perspectives. The research work has been undertaken within the ICARDA Maghreb and Mashreq program, complemented with some other development works undertaken by the author in the region with the NGO Ucodep.

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  • Michele Nori & Mohamed El Mourid & Ali Nefzaoui & Pamela Giorgi, 2009. "Herding in a Shifting Mediterranean Changing agro-pastoral livelihoods in the Mashreq & Maghreb region," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 52, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
  • Handle: RePEc:erp:euirsc:p0223

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Teresa Curristine, 2003. "Performance Information in the Budget Process: Results of the OECD 2005 Questionnaire," OECD Journal on Budgeting, OECD Publishing, vol. 5(2), pages 87-131.
    2. Pollitt, Christopher & Bouckaert, Geert, 2004. "Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780199268498.
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    participation; risk-sharing mechanisms; institutionalisation; gender policy; Mediterranean;

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