Mobile pastoral systems are more profitable

By Roads Less Travelled

NEW RESOURCE – “An economic analysis of transhumance in the Central Spanish Pyrenees” is a peer-reviewed paper written by María E. Fernández-Giménez of Colorado State University and John Ritten of University of Wyoming based on the findings of the study conducted within Roads Less Travelled global program, a partnership of Yolda Initiative, Asociación Trashumancia y Naturaleza and DiversEarth, with support from the MAVA Foundation.

Economic studies of pastoral production generally, and specifically mobile systems such as transhumance, are relatively scarce. However, determining the relative profitability of transhumance compared to more settled production systems at the firm level is critical to understanding producers’ decisions to take up or maintain this practice.

Based on an empirical evaluation of relative profitability between transhumance on foot, transhumance on truck and semi extensive production in Central Spanish Pyrenees, this paper provides initial evidence of the economic rationality of transhumance under contemporary environmental and economic conditions, filling a notable gap in research on the economics of mobile pastoralism.

Despite the prevailing public narrative that transhumance is a fading practice in rural Spain this paper documents an example of the revitalization of transhumance. Due to many factors, the prevalence of transhumance in the study area diminished significantly in the 1980s and 1990s and many families intensified their production and converted to a semi-extensive management model. Yet in the 2010s, not only did some families re-start transhumance but also several young herders opted to use transhumance from their inception.

This study documents that the primary reason for maintaining or taking up transhumance is its relative profitability compared to semi-extensive livestock husbandry. Collecting primary data on the costs and revenues associated with three types of operations (transhumance on foot, transhumance on truck and semi-extensive production), the study compared these three operation types.  The analysis demonstrates that in most scenarios, transhumance on foot is the most profitable production system and both transhumance systems outperform semi-extensive systems.

Download: An economic analysis of transhumance in the Central Spanish Pyrenees

Photo: Sheep grazing © Yolda Initiative