Shepherds will be paid around €1,400 a month, compared to an average salary of €350. Photo: Shutterstock
We are faced with a chronic shortage of funds. shepherds, the island of Sardinia is embarking on a plan to attract new recruits from an unexpected source – the windswept steppes of Central Asia.
An aging population, low birth rates and a dwindling rural population mean Sardinia is unable to find enough shepherds to tend the shaggy flocks that graze the dusty mountain depths.
Under the new agreement, about 100 shepherds and their the families must be recruited from Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic with a population of six million. people and the easternmost of the five “stans”.
Upon arrival in Sardinia they will undergo special training. Cultural intermediaries will be provided to help them adapt to life on the Mediterranean island, 4,000 miles from home.
The agreement was concluded between Coldiretti, Italy's national farmers' association, and the Kyrgyz embassy in Rome.< /p>< p>Luca Saba, head of the Sardinian branch of Coldiretti, said: “We can no longer find people willing to devote themselves to the pastoral sector.”
Kyrgyz cattle herds in the Pamirs, Afghanistan Photo: Alami
The price of sheep's milk is low and not many young people are willing to dedicate themselves to the lonely work of shepherds.
“We used to recruit from Albania and Romania, but improving economic conditions in those countries mean they can no longer guarantee labor supply,” he said.
The Kyrgyz are skilled horsemen, just like the Sardinian shepherds used to be.
They are also hardy, accustomed to raising Karakul sheep, the males of which can reach weight 220 pounds.
They will be paid about 1,400 euros a month, compared to the average salary at home of $350. per month.
Their arrival is intended to help repopulate some half-abandoned villages in the country's interior.
The shepherds will initially be sent to three districts, including Barbagia, a remote region once known for sheep rustling , internecine hostility and kidnappings.
“Legal opportunities for migrant workers”
The deal comes as Italy struggles to cope with more than 132,000 illegal migrants arriving from the North African coast this year.
Prime Minister Georgia Meloni has called for an EU naval blockade. to stop boats leaving Tunisia and Libya.
As Italy tries to crack down on illegal arrivals, legal opportunities for migrant workers are being encouraged.
“Legal immigration is a huge asset for such countries like Italy, where one in four agricultural products is harvested or produced by foreign labor, and the fields employ 358,000 permanent workers from 164 different countries,” Coldiretti said in a statement.
Most come from Romania, Morocco , India and Albania, but there are representatives of many other nationalities.
“Unlike illegal and uncontrolled immigration, driven by criminal traffickers who dump people on our coasts, this agreement… demonstrates how foreign workers can be accepted based on legality and integration.”