World Gathering of Nomads and Transhumant Herders La Granja, Spain, September 2007

11 November 2008 | Event

Over a hundred mobile pastoralists from 38 countries and 50 tribes in Africa, America, Asia and Europe gathered in Spain from the 8th to 16th of September 2007 at the World Gathering of Nomadic and Transhumant Pastoralists. The gathering was organized by the team of Red Pastor, Pastomed, the League for Pastoral Peoples, WAMIP, ROPPA, the Indigenous Information Network and a wide consortium of collaborating organisations and supported by numerous very engaged voluntary workers. The event was sponsored by the Spanish Government, the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Christensen Fund. The World Gathering took place in the highland pastureland of La Granja, north of Madrid, and was inaugurated on Saturday the 8th of September 2007 by Portugal's secretary of state for agriculture and animal husbandry, Luis Vieira.

Highlights of the gathering were the transhumance through the centre of Madrid with 200 Spanish pastoralists and 1000 sheep, and the public reading of the Segovia Declaration on Pastoralism, hosted by the Mayor of Segovia.

This was the 15th annual transhumant march through downtown Madrid in defense of two north-south grazing routes, which cut across modern-day Madrid. These ancient grazing routes have been used by the herders for more than 800 years and the right to continue using them, along with a total 120,000 km of cattle trails across the country, is protected by an Act of Parliament passed in 1995.

The transhumance coincided with the eighth session of the Convention of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (COP8), which was held in Madrid from 3rd to 14th September.

On the 9 th of September a group of pastoralist representatives read a statement to the delegates in the open dialogue session of the COP8 calling for recognition of the important role of pastoralism as a sustainable land use system in the arid and semi-arid regions of the world.

The pastoralist gathering provided an opportunity to exchange information and experiences and to debate different solutions to the problems faced by nomadic and transhumant herders the world over. In a four day workshop regional working groups analyzed their current situation and their problems, imagined an ideal vision of their future and discussed strategies to reach this vision.

This process concluded in the elaboration of the Segovia Declaration of Nomadic and Transhumant Pastoralists, which was read at the closing ceremony at the Plaza del Azoguejo, in Segovia, presided over by Sr. Pedro Arahuete, Mayor of Segovia, and Sra Maria Artola, Director of the Biodiversity Foundation in the Ministry of Environment.

Alongside the final ceremony a pastoralist craft exhibition and market took place in the Plaza, followed by an evening celebration of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly of the UN, which happened during the course of the gathering.

During an evening seminar at the pastoral gathering the Associate Human Rights Officer of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights David Martín Castro explained to the pastoralists the rights defended by the High Commission for Human Rights and the options of pastoralists as indigenous people to make use of these rights by referring to two main international instruments: the ILO C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Many pastoralists see themselves also as indigenous minorities and celebrated the adoption as a triumph for justice and human dignity following more than two decades of negotiations between governments and indigenous peoples' representatives.