"Work is very demanding"

A fortnight of people have traveled this Saturday part of the Lligallo Major, one of the most important livestock routes of the Iberian Peninsula. They have done it within the framework of the II Congress of transhumance and livestock routes held in Amposta, which among other objectives, seeks to incorporate the gender perspective into livestock farming. The outing served to meet Maria Cinta Octavio, the last active shepherdess in Tortosa with a herd of 500 goats. Now, she considers that the situation in the sector has worsened. "The administrations pose many problems and work is sacrificed, it is difficult to find people who want to dedicate themselves," Octavio lamented. At the end of the month, Igualada will host the last days of the congress, focused on the preservation of the territory.

This Saturday's departure is part of the second day of the II Congress of Transhumance and Cattle Trails. The congress, which lasted three days in Amposta, shared successful international initiatives and the benefits of extensive livestock farming to guarantee a quality agri-food system and manage the natural heritage of an area. At the same time, it has also focused on the role of women in this primary sector and on the generational change that guarantees its continuity.

Beyond the gender perspective in livestock, the conferences have also dealt with other issues, such as the survival of the sector. In this line, the IDAPA technician Marc Borrell has pointed out to the ACN that in Catalonia there has been a drop in cattle in recent years, but that it is less marked in the case of transhumant herds. “Raising cattle up the mountain is an opportunity. The shepherd has a little more margin and for three months, he can dedicate himself to other work in the field. In addition, the cost of the mountain is less than maintaining a house”, he pointed out.

An outing to discover the last active herd in Tortosa

One of the herds that was nomadic until forty years ago was that of Maria Cinta Octavio. She is the last active shepherdess left in Tortosa, and together with her son and several of her workers, she currently takes care of a herd of about 500 goats. Since she was little, Octavio has dedicated herself to the animals, the ones that sell her meat. Now, at 77 years old, she regrets the increase in costs that products such as feed or gasoline have suffered. This is an increase in prices that has not been transferred to the sale of meat and that, according to complaints, suffocates the sector. For Octavio, in this context "it is very difficult to find people who want to work in such a demanding job."

This Saturday, a fortnight of people have visited the shepherdess, after walking one of the cattle paths that connect with the Alentar corral. Throughout the entire tour, attendees have been able to learn about the importance of these routes, not only for extensive livestock farming, but also for society and biodiversity as a whole. Precisely on this road there are numerous ponds that serve as supplies for goats, but at the same time, they represent an ecosystem for other species such as the strangler or other amphibians present in the area.

With the aim of recovering the cattle routes and creating social awareness, the member of the trails committee of the federation of hiking entities of Catalonia, Jordi Buxonat, appeals to the administrations to get more involved in this task. "Many of the files are abandoned and dirty, the livestock trails are the only ones that have a protection law because they are considered ecological corridors," Buxonat pointed out. Therefore, he proposes to open the roads to other uses to guarantee their conservation.

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