Pastoralists will see better days

Pastoralists will see better days

By
12 December 2016
Photo: Elçin Turan

My name is Pervin Çoban Savran and I am a pastoralist from Turkey. I am a member of Sarıkeçililer, which is an association fighting to improve pastoralists’ living conditions and to preserve pastoralist culture. In the past, there used to be other pastoralists in this part of the country, but they have long adopted a sedentary life. We Yörüks are the last pastoralists of Anatolia, there are less than 1600 of us today. We lead a lifestyle that is millennia-old. We move constantly with our goats and camels and our movement depends on climatic conditions. But climate change and inadequate water supply increasingly challenge our way of life.

Moreover, we often have conflict with villagers who don’t like us using local water and letting our herds graze on local land. If pastoralists were given constitutional rights, we probably would not have these problems. Instead, the authorities make laws that jeopardise our knowledge. For example, they vaccinate our animals regardless of whether or not they’re threatened by illness. Vaccinations would be acceptable if the presence of illnesses has been medically diagnosed and if we put our animals at risk. But vaccinating for the sake of it only benefits pharmaceutical companies.

The authorities tried to coerce us into a sedentary way of life, but we have resisted. Our relatives who accepted to settle can’t get used to this lifestyle, they cannot live in apartments. This led us to better understand the importance of claiming our culture. Our culture is rich and represents generations of knowledge. The authorities should be aware of this. We live close to nature and depend on few external inputs.

Every year, our association organises a Nomadic Movement Festival in which we raise public awareness and discuss important issues about pastoralism. For this, we choose a place along our migration route where we face conflict. Our latest achievement was to regain access to water in the Hacı Baba mountains. I am sure we pastoralists will see better days, but before that there is a long way to go.

Interview by Elçin Turan (elcinntrn@gmail.com).
Photo: Elçin Turan