Mobile Pastoralism in Turkey

In Turkey, mobile pastoralism plays a crucial role in shaping the country’s outstanding landscapes. Its rich ecosystems and diverse habitats have not only produced a wide variety of species but also shapes the culture of its people, and vice versa, traced through the values, artefacts, cuisine, music, arts and oral literature of mobile pastoralist communities. This traditional practice, a unique example of the interaction between culture and nature, continues to evolve over time as a response to changing landscapes.

Photo: Three Musketeers © Engin Yılmaz / Yolda Initiative

Mobile Pastoralism in Turkey

In Turkey, mobile pastoralism plays a crucial role in shaping the country’s outstanding landscapes. Its rich ecosystems and diverse habitats have not only produced a wide variety of species but also shapes the culture of its people, and vice versa, traced through the values, artefacts, cuisine, music, arts and oral literature of mobile pastoralist communities. This traditional practice, a unique example of the interaction between culture and nature, continues to evolve over time as a response to changing landscapes.

Photo: Three Musketeers © Engin Yılmaz / Yolda

Particularly in the last century, mobile pastoralist communities have been facing unprecedented challenges. The very same pressures that threaten nature also threaten their itinerant ways of life. They have suffered from injustices such as grabbing-dispossession of the lands and migration routes they use.

Even though a strong linkage exists between the maintenance of mobile pastoralism and the protection of nature, not enough attention has been paid to conserving this practice in Turkey due to the limited knowledge of the multiple benefits that the practice provides to both humankind and nature. We lack understanding of the current situation, the drivers of the threats to the practice, and the gaps and needs that conservation efforts should address. Access to existing information and the lack of efficient transfer of existing knowledge to those who need it most leads to limited use for actions on the ground.

Photo: Hit the Road © Engin Yılmaz / Yolda Initiative

Spring migration, by AMNC partner Yolda | Mobile Pastoralism in Turkey

Mobility of pastoralists contribute to seed dispersal

We designed a scientific research in collaboration with Hacettepe University Functional Ecology Laboratory and Sarıkeçili nomadic pastoralists to increase understanding of the beneficial role of mobile pastoralism as a vector for plant species and as facilitating dispersal and ensuring structural, functional and also evolutionary connectivity between areas of high biodiversity and wider landscapes in Turkey. Our research team joined the spring migration, summer rotation and fall migration of a Sarıkeçili nomadic pastoralist family and collected samples of hair and feces from their herd of goats. Finishing the fieldwork, all the collected samples have been processed by planting them in a greenhouse built specifically for this experiment. Results of the taxonomic identification of the germinated seeds and other findings are currently being analysed. Preliminary results very strongly confirm the crucial role of mobile pastoralism in the dispersal of plant species. The final outputs of the study will be shared in the form of multiple peer-reviewed papers.

Photo: Spring migration © Gökhan Ergan / Yolda Initiative

Şavak Tent, by AMNC partner Yolda | Mobile Pastoralism in Turkey

The traditional ecological knowledge of mobile pastoralists complements conservation research and enables a more holistic understanding of ecosystems

We show a particular effort in understanding and documenting the traditional ecological knowledge of mobile pastoralists. Since few years we visit mobile pastoralist families and collects data addressing the instances of traditional ecological knowledge of these communities through participatory observation and in-depth interviews. Amongst many, these methods mostly aim at gaining their particular knowledge on biodiversity including fauna, flora and habitat characteristics; climate adaptation and mitigation; weather forecast; herd management techniques; land and resource management; conflicts with wildlife and solutions and social skills.

Photo: Şavak Tent © Engin Yılmaz / Yolda Initiative

All Smiles, by AMNC partner Yolda Initiative | Mobile Pastoralism in Turkey

Well-informed policy and legal frameworks are crucial for conserving mobile pastoralism

Lacking access to institutionalised power, mobile pastoralist communities in Turkey have difficulties in ensuring their representation and participation in decision-making processes. Thus, it is always at Yolda’s agenda to focus on favourable policy changes at local and national levels towards recognition of ecologic, economic, socio-cultural importance of mobile pastoralism and securing the rights of mobile pastoral communities, with addressing the key issues identified with the communities. Accordingly, multiple tools have been developed that provide practical guidance for decision makers on developing legal and policy frameworks for securing mobile pastoralism. The Turkish version of the report “Mobile Pastoralism in the Mediterranean: Arguments and evidence for policy reform and its role in combating climate change” is one of the outcomes of these endeavours.

Photo: All Smiles © Engin Yılmaz / Yolda Initiative

This collaborative project addresses the need to increase knowledge and understanding of mobile pastoralism in Turkey and to develop sustainable actions for conserving landscapes and the mobile pastoralists who rely on them. We support mobile pastoralist communities to maintain their lifestyles and continue moving freely through the landscapes for nature, for the climate and for life and living.

This collaborative project addresses the need to increase knowledge and understanding of mobile pastoralism in Turkey and to develop sustainable actions for conserving landscapes and the mobile pastoralists who rely on them. We support mobile pastoralist communities to maintain their lifestyles and continue moving freely through the landscapes for nature, for the climate and for life and living.

This project is led by AMNC partner Yolda Initiative.

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