The Mediterranean basin is characterized by unmanaged forests under an increasing vulnerability to wildfires due to climate change. A small number of wildfires are responsible for most of the burnt area. These large forest fires represent a growing risk for society, as firefighting services are unable to deal with , despite the high budgets and investments allocated. Experts state that “extinction is the answer, but not the solution”, and that the latter depends on sustainable management of forests and landscapes.
Silvopastoralism is a common practice with high benefits for society (landscape conservation, fire risk management, and the production of high quality meat and dairy products). But the presence of herds and shepherds is becoming increasingly uncommon, leading to the growth of fire prone forests. Thus, the presence of livestock in woodlands has become a shared common interest of owners, farmers, firefighters, environment rangers, and businesses willing to sell food products with an added value. All of this has motivated the project Ramats de Foc.
Ramats de Foc brings together all public and private agents interested in the continuity of silvopastoralism, by aligning their various needs, and articulating a production and consumption chain of food products from herds with the added value of decreasing fire risk in woodlands with a strategic role in the propagation of wildfires (as determined by Firefighters of Catalonia and the Department of Agriculture).
With Ramats de Foc, shepherds release their livestock in forests with predefined understory vegetation control targets. However, grazing in forests often carries additional effort and a reduction in herd productivity, discouraging shepherds from going.
The Artisan Butchers Guild of Girona counties works on adding value to the products of the participating farmers, through a label that certifies the herds’ fire risk management tasks. Customers will thereby know that eating Ramats de Foc products delivers societal benefits; it will keep alive local extensive livestock farming and preserve forests.
The project aims at generating fire resistant woodlands and the continuity of extensive livestock farming (given its double task in food production and landscape conservation). Here is, therefore, the importance of strengthening the links between wildfire management services, farmers and local butchers and restaurants.
Wildfire management services identify woodlands that are strategic in fire propagation dynamics, and describe what results are to be attained though pastoralism, for a effective change in fire behaviour in the area.
Extensive livestock farms graze the (fire) strategic areas with their animals (sheep, goats, or cows), following a grazing plan that will allow to reach the expected results.
Butchers and restaurants sell meat and dairy products from flocks under the Ramats de Foc label, and explain the added value behind them.
End customers become part of the fight against wildfires through the regular consumption of Ramats de Foc products, and support the continuity of extensive livestock farming in our forests.