Integrating immigrant workforce in European pastoralism: reality, policy and practices

Michele Nori, European University Institute

International migration studies traditionally address mostly urban set-tings; nonetheless the interest for migrants that inhabit and contribute to rural communities has grown in recent times, particularly in Europe, where estimates suggest that over 5 million international migrants currently live, though actual numbers are likely to be even higher (Bock et al., 2016; Nori, Triandafyllidou, 2019; Ryeand O’Reilly, 2020). When turning interest to rural settings, the focus of the academy has mostly been on the role of international migration in intensive agricultural systems, such as horticulture and food processing, where migrant labour force makes up an important share in manual, low-skilled positions (Martin, 2016; Rye, Scott, 2018).

This phenomenon is particularly visible and investigated in Mediterranean Europe, on the one hand due to the relevance of agriculture in the national economies, and on the other to the direction of migratory flows, whereby in few decades the region has converted from one of emigration to a transit one, to a land of immigration (Ortiz-Miranda et al., 2013; Gerteland Sippel, 2014; Corrado et al., 2016; Nori et al., 2019). In order to fill these gaps this work proposes a different perspective, that looks into the dynamics recon-figuring the agrarian world in inner, mountainous and island settings, where capital-based production is less effective and thus considered marginal for mainstream and more frequently addressed intensive farming systems. These areas cover a large part of the Euro-Mediterranean region and present specific features and dynamics. In these settings, pastoralism — the extensive rear-ing of mostly sheep, goats and cattle that make use of natural and semi-natural grasslands — provides critical contributions in supporting employment and income of local communities.

This work illustrates how pastoralism in mountainous regions of Greece, Spain, southern France and Italy is similarly reliant on access to migrant labour. Pastoral-ism provides an intriguing perspective on the processes that have reconfigured the agrarian world, as it embodies the contradictions of an agricultural practice increasingly appreciated by society but decreasingly practiced by local people. In order to disentangle the mutual-dependency relationships between pastoral farmers and immigrant shepherds, semi-structured interviews to both groups have been undertaken between 2015 and 2018 in different pastoral regions in Italy (Triveneto, Piedmont, Abruzzi), Greece (Peloponnesus, Thessaly), Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region in France and Catalan Pyrenees in Spain (Nori, 2017). The outcomes have then been framed within a critical assessment of the processes related to the reconfiguration of the agrarian world in Mediterranean Europe. More information could be sought through the TRAMed project.


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