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Romanian Mobile Livestock Systems

Extensive livestock production in Romania, incorporating elements of mobility, has created and maintained semi-natural grassland habitats of exceptional biodiversity. The management practices of transhumance and pendulation are adapted to, and integrated with the environment. Production is linked to seasonal cycles and the availability of forage and fodder resources. At present, few if any agro-chemicals are applied to the land. Landscapes created and maintained by pastoralism are considered to be exceptionally beautiful; they generate income into the region by attracting national and international tourists

These systems have been sustainable for thousands of years and, if properly supported now –in recognition of the multiple benefits that they deliver to society, can continue to provide food and secure livelihoods in the long term.

The described site is located in the area of the commune of Intorsura Buzaului at the foot of the Ciucas Mountain range, on the northern slope of the Curvature Carpathians. It is an area characterized by the two main mobile pastoralist systems typical to Romania, pendulation and transhumance. Pendulation occurs throughout Romania's mountain regions, whereas transhumance now occurs only in a few areas on the northern slope of the Carpathians.

During pendulation livestock are taken short distances (usually up to 20 km) to summer pastures belonging to the community administrations. The summer camp, usually no more than a wooden shack, is located on these pastures and is the shepherd's fixed base for the summer months. Flocks are usually made of sheep and cattle, and can also include pigs, goats, donkeys and horses. The main products of this system are a number of traditional cheeses made from a mixture of sheep and cattle milk. .. Each household typically owns less than ten sheep, a couple of cows and a few hectares of hay meadows that provide fodder for the livestock during winter months.

Only sheep are taken on transhumance, a system which involves movements over 2-300 km from summer pastures near the mountain villages in the transhumant centres of southern Transylvania to lowland winter pastures in the two Romanian regions “Ţara Românească” (Wallachia) and Moldavia. Transhumant flocks generally belong to families that, because they own large numbers of sheep, do not have enough grassland to provide food for their livestock during the whole winter. The flocks vary in size, generally ranging from 1000 to 2000 sheep. Several shepherds, donkeys carrying their personal items, and livestock guarding dogs accompany every transhumant flock. The flocks leave the mountains in early October and take around two months to complete the journey to the winter grazing pastures, where they stay until after lambing in February and March, after which they make their journey back to reach home by Easter.

Historically, transhumance has played an important role in the development and exchange of cultures and traditions between different regions of Europe and further east. Before the redefinition of Romania's borders in the early 1900's, Romanian transhumance flocks travelled as far as the Crimea to the east and to Bohemia in the west. Linguistic evidence demonstrates that, in the Carpathians, pastoral production practices originated in Romania and then spread northwards along the mountain chain. Many Romanian traditions, songs, foods, and words, for example, have their roots in pastoralism and form an integral part of Romanian's cultural identity.

Transhumance and pendulation possess both biophysical and socio-cultural diversity: the movements occur between lowlands and mountain ranges, between different climatic regions, between two ecoregions (e.g. Carpathians – Danube floodplains) and between different cultural and economic realities. This pastoral system has been sustainable for centuries both from the ecological and from the socio-economic point of view. There has been a permanent flow of resources and information between shepherds, the livestock owners and their families.

The two million hectares of semi-natural grasslands in Romania's mountain regions exhibit an outstanding level of biodiversity in Europe and are a direct legacy of a long history pastoral management practices incorporating elements of mobility. With appropriate and effective support, this type of pastoralism has the potential to continue to support sustainable human-environmental relations in the long term.

Transhumance and pendulation have driven extensive cultural exchanges and many Romanian and Carpathian terminologies, traditions, foods and songs have their roots in these practices. The national poem, Mioriţa, is about shepherds and is said to be equivalent to the Iliad in terms of being a representation of the identity of a nation.

To read the full article, please follow the link to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, where it was originally posted.