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Feeding flocks on rangelands: Insights into the local ecological knowledge of shepherds in Boulemane province (Morocco)

Gobindram N.E., Boughalmi A., Moulin C.H., Meuret M., Bastianelli D., Araba A., Jouven M.. 2018. Rangeland Journal, 40 (3) : p. 207-218.

In Mediterranean regions, traditional pastoral systems involve shepherds leading flocks along daily grazing circuits on arid rangelands. Over the past decades, these systems have become increasingly agro-pastoral and the importance given to feeding flocks on rangelands is variable. Our study aimed at investigating the local ecological knowledge (LEK) about forage plants and animal foraging behaviour of shepherds in a pastoral area of Morocco, and eventually analysing the possible interactions between such LEK, its utilisation for grazing management and the pastoral status of the farm. Eleven semi-directive interviews with shepherds, either salaried or owning their own farm, were carried out at three sites differing in terms of agricultural context and available forage resources. Shepherds' LEK included recognising and naming forage plants and rangeland types, identifying preferred or less preferred plants or plant parts, describing circumstantial palatability of plants depending mainly on season, other locally available plants and watering times. LEK about animal feeding preferences and its integration into grazing management was more extensive at sites where pastoral systems were still most valued, and for shepherds who were either experienced or who were considering the activity in the future. Conversely, young salaried shepherds or farmer-shepherds who devoted more attention to the agricultural component of their system seemed to be less knowledgeable about the subject. In a context where pastoralism is challenged both by the higher profitability of agriculture and by the depletion of pastoral resources as a result of frequent droughts and decreased surface area devoted to grazing lands, the future of such LEK is uncertain. The perpetuation of LEK might depend on the ability of local extension services to value farmers' LEK and to help them enrich it with scientific knowledge.

Mots-clés : maroc

Thématique : Alimentation animale; Ecologie végétale

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