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Past, present and future of pastoralism in Greece

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22 pages
Pastoral farming has been a feature of the Greek scene since antiquity. The geomorphology of the area, climatic conditions and the prevailing systems of agricultural production in lowland regions at any given time have all been conducive to the development and preservation of this productive system, principally of small ruminants, until the present day. In the present paper, a brief review is presented of the pastoralism system in the area of Greece through the millennia, highlighting the variety of driving forces on pastoralism. Importance is stressed on this human activity to the formation of present-day biodiversity. Over the last decades, the pastoralist system has been subjected to pressures for 'modernization' and intensification like the rest of the agricultural sector in Greece and has been influenced by the social demands and constraints imposed on individuals in the farming community by these same modernising processes. Adaptation to modern conditions has been accompanied by rapid contraction of the pastoral system, despite the noteworthy economic role it purportedly has to play in the national economy, not to mention its social role in keeping alive the steadily decaying mountainous and disadvantaged regions, which constitute a considerable proportion of the rural land area of Greece. An attempt is made to foresee the future of this system by examining the dynamics of each component.
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HadjigeorgiouPastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice2011,1:24 http://www.pastoralismjournal.com/content/1/1/24
R E S E A R C HOpen Access Past, present and future of pastoralism in Greece Ioannis Hadjigeorgiou
Correspondence: ihadjig@aua.gr Department of Nutritional Physiology and Feeding, Agricultural University of Athens, Iera Odos 75, GR11855, Athens, Greece
Abstract Pastoral farming has been a feature of the Greek scene since antiquity. The geomorphology of the area, climatic conditions and the prevailing systems of agricultural production in lowland regions at any given time have all been conducive to the development and preservation of this productive system, principally of small ruminants, until the present day. In the present paper, a brief review is presented of the pastoralism system in the area of Greece through the millennia, highlighting the variety of driving forces on pastoralism. Importance is stressed on this human activity to the formation of presentday biodiversity. Over the last decades, the pastoralist system has been subjected to pressures for modernizationand intensification like the rest of the agricultural sector in Greece and has been influenced by the social demands and constraints imposed on individuals in the farming community by these same modernising processes. Adaptation to modern conditions has been accompanied by rapid contraction of the pastoral system, despite the noteworthy economic role it purportedly has to play in the national economy, not to mention its social role in keeping alive the steadily decaying mountainous and disadvantaged regions, which constitute a considerable proportion of the rural land area of Greece. An attempt is made to foresee the future of this system by examining the dynamics of each component. Keywords:Greece, nomadism, transhumance, sheep and goats, Mediterranean, Eur opean Union CAP
Introduction Extensive pastures have traditionally played an important role in the evolution of human societies and the land on which they were living, particularly in the Mediterra nean areas (Jouven et al. 2010). Extensive pastures still function today in the produc tion of a range of quality foods (Boyazoglu and MorandFehr 2001) and in providing a spectrum of environmental services. Grazing livestock exert a strong impact on the vegetation not only in forage quantity and quality (Bailey et al. 1998), but also on vege tation dynamics (Casasús et al. 2005; Kramer et al. 2003), species and community diversity (Olff and Ritchie 1998; Collins et al. 1998; Sternberg et al. 2000) and, finally, the landscape (Adler et al. 2001; Perevolotsky 2005). Overall, grazing activity signifi cantly contributes to a particularly rich mosaic of vegetation (Balent and Gibon 1996) and results in the creation and preservation of all dimensions of biodiversity (Rook et al. 2004; Clergue et al. 2005; Dover et al. 2011). The geographical configuration of the Balkan region, with the deep corrugations of its mountain terrain, the high peaks, the frequent alteration between mountain areas
© 2011 Hadjigeorgiou; licensee Springer. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
HadjigeorgiouPastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice2011,1:24 http://www.pastoralismjournal.com/content/1/1/24
and plains with a mild Mediterranean climate and the extensive coastal zones, all guar anteed the availability of summer and winter pasturage without the need to travel over long horizontal distances (Vallerand et al. 2007). From antiquity until the present, the mountainous area of mainland Greece (Pindus mountain range) and that of central Peloponnese have been the summer home for a large part of the migratory flocks of sheep and goats, while coastal areas are the wintering regions. [See map in Figure 1]. A very brief historical account from antiquity to the present shows clearly that the roots of pastoralism as a socioeconomic production system lie deep in Greek history. In fact, the ancient Greek wordprobata(πróbaτa), which originally meant livestock in general and etymologicallythat which moves ahead, survived intact in modern Greek and refers to sheep. Sheep and goat farming has been the main pastoral activity practised in Greece since ancient times and has survived until today, mainly as part of the national identity, despite not being now a competitive production system (Valler and et al. 2001; Hadjigeorgiou et al. 2002).
Archaic period There are signs of animal farming in Greece more than 8,000 years ago, dated to 6500 B.C. at the beginning of the Neolithic era in Europe (Halstead 1996). In ancient Helle nic societies, animals were essential for the practicalities of farm work and food pro duction, manufacture of garments, transport, war, hunting and sacrifice. Greek myth
Figure 1Geophysical map of the modern Greek state, illustrating the rugged, mountainous and island character of the country (source: http://greekschool.tsaserv.com).
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