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The Italian region of Sardinia will import shepherds and farmers from Kyrgyzstan, a move aimed at addressing a declining population and preserving farming traditions on the Mediterranean island, Euronews reported Thursday.
The local branch of the national farmers’ union, Coldiretti, recently announced it had struck a deal with the Kyrgyz government to start a pilot project that would bring about 100 Kyrgyz shepherds and their families to Sardinia next year.
Under the agreement, Kyrgyz shepherds will stay in rural Sardinian centers, receiving apprenticeships that may later become long-term contracts. If the pilot works, thousands of Kyrgyz shepherds may come to Sardinia, according to Coldiretti.
The deal comes as the Italian island has been struggling with the issue of depopulation in recent years, particularly in rural areas. This has sparked concerns over the disappearance of Sardinia’s traditions, such as the production of the strongly flavored sheep-milk cheese pecorino.
The farmers’ union said that Kyrgyzstan has shepherding traditions that are similar to Sardinia, where sheep farming has gone on for centuries. Although many migrants have been landing on Italy’s shores in recent years, the union noted that it has been difficult to find long-term workers willing to work in Sardinia’s rural regions.
Kyrgyz shepherds, on the other hand, are used to living in small communities and are familiar with sheep farming, it added.