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Efficiency and resilience of forage resources and small ruminant production to cope with global challenges in Mediterranean areas

01 October 2021

The proceedings of the 1st Joint Meeting of the FAO-CIHEAM Network for Research and Development in Sheep and Goats (Subnetworks on Nutrition and Production Systems) and the FAO-CIHEAM Subnetwork for Research and Development of Mediterranean Forage Resources have been published in CIHEAM journal Options Méditerranéennes with the title “Efficiency and resilience of forage resources and small ruminant production to cope with global challenges in Mediterranean areas“.

The meeting was held at Morocco’s National School of Agriculture in Meknes, from 23 to 25 October 2019, and was of particular significance for three reasons: first, it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza (CIHEAM Zaragoza); second, it was the first joint meeting of these FAO-CIHEAM Networks; and third, it addressed a major challenge for the Mediterranean region: the efficiency and resilience of feed resources and small ruminant production in the light of global challenges.

Small ruminant breeding plays an important role in the agricultural livelihood systems in different Mediterranean countries. However, farmers and shepherds find difficulties to earn a decent living or have a satisfactory lifestyle, due to many reasons: low product prices and high input prices, low productivity and capitalisation, harsh working conditions, decreased attractiveness of farming, social disregard, lack of services in rural areas, competition for land or conflicts of land use with other activities that are considered more profitable, etc. The pillars of sustainability, productivity, profitability and environmental and social benefits of this sector are mainly linked to grazing resources that unfortunately undergo continuous and often severe degradation due to the changes to which they are submitted. In some cases, they are subject to abusive and often excessive use and conversely, in other cases they are almost abandoned.

The effects of climate change are already being felt: reduction in rainfall, rise in temperatures, and successive years of drought or with extreme climatic events, etc. This situation has led to a mutation of extensive grazing systems to farming systems based on feed supplementation. A sustainable management of small ruminant farms requires a better knowledge of the “soil-plant-animal” interactions and integrated approaches, taking into account the socio-economic system. Especially, the resilience of small ruminant systems requires an efficient management of natural and cultivated forage resources in order to face climatic and social challenges.

The objective of the Meeting was to encourage the participation of and interaction between scientists, technicians and professionals to exchange their experiences and to update knowledge on the promising options that would improve small ruminant productivity and enhance the conservation of pastoral forage resources in the Mediterranean countries. This Meeting was organised by the National School of Agriculture of Meknes (ENA) under the aegis of Morocco’s Ministry of Agriculture, Maritime Fisheries, Rural Development, Water and Forests (MAPMDREF), and by the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Zaragoza – International Centre for Advanced Mediterra nean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM Zaragoza), with the collaboration of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the H2020 Project iSAGE (Innovation for Sustainable Sheep and Goat Production in Europe, Grant Agreement n679302).

This Joint Meeting gathered 136 participants from 15 different countries and lasted for three days, including a day’s field visit organised with the collaboration of the Moroccan “Association Nationale Ovine et Caprine (ANOC)”. The scientific and technical presentations were structured in different plenary and parallel sessions providing a framework for scientific and technical exchanges, with invited lectures and oral or poster contributions. The plenary sessions were devoted to questions of common interest for the two Networks: What production systems and product chains to meet the societal demand; how to meet the challenge of climate change in Mediterranean agro-pastoral systems; and how to improve the contribution of grazed and cropped forages in feeding systems. The parallel sessions provided time to present and discuss specific issues of interest of the Sheep and Goat Nutrition Subnetwork (Nutritional strategies to improve adaptation and production effi- ciency) and of the Mediterranean Forage Resources Subnetwork (Promising forage resources for Mediterranean production systems). Finally, a workshop presenting the main results and recommendations from the 4-year EU research project iSAGE (Innovation for Sustainable Sheep and Goat production in Europe) was included in the programme.

Your can read the full proceedings here: