CIVICS/First Results 2012

Conservation challenges by transhumant sheep herding in the South CaucasusEdit


Jan Barkmann (1), Johanna Schott (1), Gia Abramia (2), Vakhtang Shelia (3,4), Vugar Babayev (5), Vardan Urutyan (6), Emilia Nercissans (7), Talin Kalatas (1), Stefan Schwarze (1), Bernd Gehlken (1), Renate Bürger‐Arndt (1), Rainer Marggraf (1), Gizo Gogichaishvili (8,9), Susanna Hakobyan (10,11), Nikoloz Mikava (12), Nizami Ibrahimli (5), David Shelia (13)

1 Georg‐August‐Universitaet Goettingen, Goettingen, DE 2 International Center for Environmental Research, Tbilisi, GE 3 David Aghmashenebeli University of Georgia, Tbilisi, GE 4 Caucasus International University, Tbilisi, GE 5 Ganja Agribusiness Association, Ganja, AZ 6 International Center for Agribusines Research and Education, Erevan, AM 7 Teheran University, Teheran, IR 8 Department of Hydrometeorology of Georgia, Tbilisi, GE 9 Ministry of Nature Protection and Natural Resources, Tbilisi, GE 10 Institute of Hydroecology and Ichthyology, Erevan, AM 11 Armenian Academy of Science, Erevan, AM 12 Georgia Young Agrarian‐Scientific Union, Tbilisi, GE 13 Gogichaishvili Institute of Economics and Law, Tbilisi, GE


In the South Caucasus, sheep herding on alpine summer pastures has a long tradition. Because of its exceptional conservation value, the German Ministry of Development Co‐operation (BMZ) initiated a multi‐year program for "transboundary" national parks (NP) here. We conducted semi‐structured interviews with local farmers, national park staff, NGO representatives, and with administrative officials (n=36) at respective sites. The Javakheti region (Georgia/GE, close to Armenia/AR) is predominantly inhabited by ethnic Armenians of GE nationality. The implementation of a recently established NP was retarded by the sale of alpine pastures earmarked for the NP to transhumant herders of Azerbeijan/AZ ethnics also of GE nationality. Attempts by the administration of Lagodekhi NP (GE, established 1912, close to AZ), to remove about two dozend alpine summer camps of herders of AZ ethnics (GE nationality) in a recent extension of the NP have been unsuccessful for several years ‐ even with financial support from The World Bank. In both GE NPs, elements of participatory conservation planning were used. Across the border in Zaqatala NP (AZ, established 1929), the protected area was extended recently because of overgrazing of alpine pastures adjacent to the NP. Herders can be of several ethnics here. They will be denied access and referred to alternative pastures. The NP administration enforces a "fences and fines" approach. In Lake Arpi NP (Armenia, no ethnic minorities), participatory NP planning resulted in a swift implementation of the NP accepted by the local peasant population. We conclude that participatory NP planning is complicated by (i) a tendency of national governments to locate NPs at remote border regions inhabitated by national minorities, (ii) the presence of transhumant forms of land use conducted by ethnic minorities. While current conservation planning is well able to deal with local populations and ethnically "simple" situations, the above factors pose severe challenges to the conservation of semi‐natural alpine pastures. Using a strong "fences and fines" approach does not resolve the underlying land use conflicts ‐ but it can facilitate positive conservation outcomes at least in the short run. Examples of countries with a similar approach, e.g. from Indonesia in the 1980s and 1990s, suggest that success fades rapidly, however, if the legitimacy of the governance structure is challenged, and its efficacy subsequently compromised. Long‐term conservation success may require an appreciation of traditional forms of transhumant pasture use and a pro‐active nationality policy by national institutions while paying careful attention to the needs of local sessile populations.