Case Study

Bigger scale in traditions


Bigger scale in traditions


1. Introduction

Ioannis Dekolis is the president of the transhumant farmers in Epirus. His farm has 800 sheep and 30-40 goats. When he took over the breeding, he tried and made various improvements. For example, in 1986, he got an electric clipper for the animals. In 1989, he installed a milking parlor in the lower rangelands. National programs have resulted in mild interventions which have improved conditions (watering places, feeders, shelters, etc.), but more are needed. In recent years, the European Medina program created an educational cheese factory in Baltuma village.

2. Basic information

Main promoter

Ioannis Dekolis

Start of the practice



Egnatia, Greece

Organisations involved
  • Farmer(s)/ Dairymaid(s)/ Herder(s)
Total surface of land farmed in ha
  • 200 ha
Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • Rented public land
Basic produce
  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Wool
EL54 Ioannina
  • Main farm


  • Summer pastures


3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

The farm was created by Ioannis Dekolis great-grandparents in 1913. After that, the whole family remained transhumant livestock breeders. All these years, they stayed in the same winter and summer region. The family stayed in huts until 1964. In 1964, the prefecture built houses for the farmers in the highlands. Ioannis Dekolis is a high school graduate without further specialisation. His knowledge is empirical and passed down from generation to generation.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type

Corine-Land-cover categorization and codes:

  • Natural grasslands (321) 
  • Sparsely vegetated areas (333)
  • Moors and heathlands (322)
Animal type/ breed

Ioannis Dekolis has an autochthone breed called “Κaramanika – Katsika”. 

Movement patterns

The movement is vertical on foot for 5-6 hours. It starts from Baltouma village at an altitude of 474 m a.s.l. and goes to the Peristeri region in Lakmos mountain at an altitude of >1900 m a.s.l. 

Kind of cooperation

The milk production is sold to the milk industry named Dodoni, which is the biggest in Epirus.

Markets addressed/ product selling

The product is sold to the processing industry.

Threats & challenges

During the last decades, Albanian workers aided the maintenance of transhumant livestock farming. Unfortunately, after the economic crisis, they returned to their country or switched to other professions. Thus, shepherds are lacking. Reducing transhumance creates problems for the rangelands as the land use/land cover has been changed. The biodiversity of rangelands has decreased, and desirable plant species have also significantly reduced. Additionally, the road network is not in good condition and destroys the farmer’s cars (mechanical parts). The farmer needs a rangeland management plan for the grazing area and a better quality road to move the products faster. In recent years, livestock breeders have been using foreign breeds such as Lacoune, which are much more efficient than indigenous breeds. This change raises concerns among livestock breeders on whether they should change breeds to have greater production or to preserve indigenous breeds. To provide more incentives and subsidise the conservation of indigenous breeds would probably help preserving these breeds.

5. Decisions taken


Ioanni Dekolis grew up with transhumance from a young age. He likes nature and the mountains, loves animals and his village, and decided to get involved in this profession. The main reason is the economic profit.

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

Ioannis Dekolis decides to keep the autochthone breed as his father and grandfather did, although it does not have such high performance as foreign breeds. He believes that the autochthone breed is better adapted to the environment.

Decision for the production system

The production system is different during the year. It is semi-extensive in the winter season, while it is extensive in summer when the animals cover their demands by grazing. 

Diversification of income

Livestock farming is the primary source of income. One way to increase the farmer’s income would be to welcome visitors. However, opening the farm to the public presupposes the creation of a good road network and facilities for visitors (houses, etc.). 

Multifunctional aspects

Ioanni Dekolis knows that transhumant livestock farming positively affects the biodiversity of the landscape and tries to graze to maintain its sustainability. He tries not to disturb the environment significantly with all his actions and small interventions. However, his concern is that the farmers’ work needs to be promoted. People need to learn about the farmers’ work and how much it helps to maintain biodiversity. If grazing animals are missing, wildlife habitats will be reduced, fires will increase, and the balance of the ecosystem will be disturbed.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

There was a collaboration with the French network of transhumant livestock breeders to exchange views on their profession. Unfortunately, no possibility for training exists as the relevant bodies have no proper organisation.

7. Next steps to move on

In his plans, Ioannis Dekolis will try to reduce the number of animals, create a small cheese factory to use the milk production on his own and create high-quality products. His son is an agronomist-zootechnician who will continue the family tradition. He is thinking of selling the products himself on the farm. At the same time, he is thinking about making his farm visitable. Visitors could be trained in traditional cheese production techniques.

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

Benefit the environment, keep the environment alive including its flora and fauna. There should be a benefit for the livestock farmers because they produce high quality products. These products should have a better selling price.

Transhumance is a very tough job, and farmers should consider it very seriously. If they have someone familiar with the job, it easier to move forward. Since there is almost no help from the state, they should have the knowledge to deal with the daily problems related to animals, their breeding, pastures, etc. But if someone loves life and nature, with the right help, he could perhaps succeed.