Changes in livestock farming systems in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains
This paper aims to characterize small ruminant farming systems in the Moroccan mountain regions and to assess undergoing socio-economic and ecological changes. Livestock farming systems in these regions are extensive with large flock sizes, especially sheep and goats raised mainly for meat production. Sheep producers utilized the inherent genetic diversity of their stock and developed adaptations to cope with seasonal availability of the mountain pastures and the need to diversify their own
... rsify their own activities. Nowadays, farming systems in mountainous regions are undergoing socio-economic and ecological transformations that impact directly or indirectly on natural resources. Reduction and/or disappearance of herd transhumance, where flocks were moved seasonally from one climatic zone/vegetation type to another, was an important feature of the Middle Atlas sixty years ago Along with this reduced contribution from natural rangelands, other external resources and agricultural by-products (straw, stubble) are offered which make the system heavily dependent on agriculture. Intensification of feeding systems is associated with a choice for more productive but less hardy breeds from lowland areas. As a consequence of the reduction in mobility and the sedentarization of herds, there is an increase in the grazing pressure causing new and significant degradation of rangeland resources. Other profound institutional modifications concern the management and the utilization of the mountainous pasture. Indeed, the power of the group and the institutions for managing the resources is being replaced by the individual initiatives.