The types of agropastoralism in Causses and Cévennes

Agropastoralism in the Causses and Cévennes has many facets: various types of agropastoral organisation inherited from Mediterranean traditional systems are based totally or partially on extensive farming on grazing land known as parcours. There are several different forms of agropastoral organisation that complement each other:

  • agro-sylvo-pastoralism with sheep and goats, comprising various systems of sedentary farming with a pastoral component, combined with agricultural or agritourism activities in the lower Cévennes: This form of agropastoralism is based on pluriactivity. Sheep or goat-farming is linked to other activities such as arboriculture (chestnut, Reinette du Vigan AOC apple or peach), market gardening (sweet onion, AOC Rayolette), gathering (mushrooms, blueberries, medicinal plants or narcissi for perfumery) or agritourism (gîtes, B&Bs, farm inns, etc.). Some of these pastoral farmers entrust their flocks to the shepherds who guide the transhumance during the summer, so they can devote their time to agricultural activities and catering to tourists.

  • a sedentary or transhumant form of agro-sylvo-pastoralism on the Cévenole highlands of Aigoual, Lingas, Bougès and Lozère: On these high-altitude lands, agropastoral activity focuses on sheep and cow farming as well as hosting the transhumance in the summer. This form of agropastoralism is essential for maintaining the open spaces in the mountains.

  • a sheep-based form of agropastoralism focussing on meat and cheese production, including various systems of sedentary farming with a pastoral component on the Grands Causses: This form of agropastoralism focuses on sheep farming for the production of farm-made specialities in addition to meat production, which helps to maintain the open spaces by using the grazing land.

  • direct, short-distance, pedestrian pastoralism with transhumant sheep in the Cévennes and Monts Lozère and Aigoual: this is the best-known if not the main form of pastoralism in the area. It is characterised by sheep-farming for meat, and makes use of the summer pastures (estives), which often requires the flock to travel during the summer period in order to make the most of the high-altitude grazing land (parcours). It is regularly exemplified by gatherings at the start of the summer transhumance, where the shepherds round up their sheep to go up to the summer pasture along the droveways (drailles), the transhumance paths that run along the ridges.


St-Guilhem-le-Désert, plaine des lavagnes (prairie) © CC Vallée de l’Hérault – Laure Béné

St-Guilhem-le-Désert, plaine des lavagnes (prairie) © CC Vallée de l’Hérault – Laure Béné

These different forms of agropastoralism that coexist today on the territory of the Causses and Cévennes, and their influence on the landscape, form the basis for the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) that has justified the listing of this territory as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Indeed, the Causses and Cévennes are an example of the diverse agropastoral activities that are still present within a given territory.


Chèvre sous un châtaignier © OIER SUAMME

Chèvre sous un châtaignier © OIER SUAMME

Vaches de l'Aubrac sur le Mont-Aigoual © EICC

Vaches de l’Aubrac sur le Mont-Aigoual © EICC