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Transhumant pastoralism in Poland: Contemporary challenges

Sendyka, Pawel, Makovicky, Nicolette
Pastoralism 2018 v.8 no.1 pp. 5
European Union, agricultural products, ecosystem services, labor, livestock, livestock production, market access, markets, pastoralism, pastures, subsidies, traditional technology, Poland
Since the mid-2000s, transhumant pastoralism and the production of artisanal sheep’s cheeses have experienced a revival in the Polish Carpathians. This revival has largely coincided with Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004, leading to a re-valuation of extensive livestock production from an economic and environmental liability to a form of ‘High Nature Value’ farming. Supported by Common Agricultural Policy CAP European Union subsidies, Polish pastoralists have been re-classified from being producers of livestock and agricultural products to suppliers of environmental and ecosystem services. Despite these changes, however, they continue to face significant systemic challenges which are rooted in the marked decline of the communist-era pastoral economy in the late 1980s and a subsequent increasing competition for land and labour under market conditions. Based on anthropological fieldwork conducted in Poland’s Carpathian Highland region during the 2015, 2016, and 2017 pastoral seasons, this article provides insight into four sets of challenges deemed most important by working shepherds today: recruiting qualified labour, gaining access to pasture, gaining access to markets, and working within a Polish policy environment which fails to recognise the particular conditions and requirements of pastoral agriculture.