The proposed research addresses an important knowledge gap affecting the scientific as well as the policy making communities in the EU and its neighbours. It looks at the interface between migration dynamics and EU policies on agriculture and rural development, two domains that are raising concern amongst EU public opinion and institutions.
While it is recognised that different migrant communities play nowadays an important role in agricultural activities throughout the EU, the implications of this trend are rarely assessed. A better understanding of the dynamics reshaping the EU countryside in socio-economic terms - and specifically the implications of a growing presence of foreign migrants - is needed to inform policy-making accordingly. The research proposes to analyse a specific segment of this domain, that of pastoralism – extensive livestock rearing – which importantly contributes to manage marginal territories and fragile ecosystems, which are of increasing concern for many EU policies. The research hypothesis is that the highly specialised skills of migrant pastoralists are hardly acknowledged by the wider society.
The research will look into these dynamics in the Mediterranean region, so to have a coherent and integrated geographical framework. In the last two decades it is mostly young migrants coming from pastoral areas of the Maghreb and the Balkans that are taking over from old shepherds in southern EU countries. The research proposes to assess the patterns of these migrating pastoralists and to critically analyse the underpinning drivers, strategies and networks. Research outcomes will consist of a comprehensive picture of migrants' contribution to sustainable rural development in southern EU, with an analysis of the implications for the whole region. By contributing to disentangle the different aspects of these processes the research aims to contribute to adequately inform policy decision-making at EU level in a number of relevant domains.