Pro Natura Val Müstair, Pro Natura / Friends of the Earth Switzerland

Linking culture and nature in the Swiss Alps

Jachen Andri Planta has long been passionate about mountain culture and nature. He is a founder of the local group of Pro Natura / Friends of the Earth Switzerland in Val Müstair, one the country’s most remote regions. Meanwhile, he helps lead the movement for the valley to be designated as a UNESCO-recognised biosphere reserve.

Jachen Andri is a mountain farmer and guide, and has helped train special sheepdogs which keep wolves and bears away from the sheep that summer in the alpine meadows. While he began doing this to protect his own sheep, he also intended to show that traditional alpine farming lifestyles are compatible with a living environment. Big predators – once extinct in Switzerland – are now quickly returning to their ancient territories thanks to the protection they enjoy in Italian natural parks.

Large carnivores are part of our heritage and have key ecosystem functions. Wolves and bears are expanding their ranges in the Alps, and this comeback, while celebrated by nature enthusiasts, is often opposed by farmers.

Many are afraid for their livestock that they keep practically unprotected throughout the summer in high alpine pastures.

Solutions exist for the coexistence of traditional farming and wild nature, based on strong cultural links between humans and nature. A balanced lifestyle is key to maintaining the high levels of biodiversity and much-cherished landscapes found throughout the Alpine chain.

Jachen Andri is one of many farmers who want to get back to their roots and integrate nature and (agri)culture by engaging in organic farming, cultivating ancient local breeds, and restoring biodiverse land. Pro Natura supports this model, working both locally with small-scale farmers, and at the political level to ensure a better future for agriculture and wild nature. Fighting against industrialised, intensive models of food production and tourism is an essential way to stop biodiversity loss and maintain a heritage of coexistence between humans and nature in the heart of our continent.

“I am satisfied to see that sheep can live in the mountains, protected from wolves by dogs, and I hope more people will follow this example in the future. Many people are dissatisfied with the environment here – they say ‘ok, but we cannot live on nice air and the bright sun’, but when the tourists arrive and tell us how beautiful the valley we live in is, people start realising what they have, and what they are responsible for preserving. This is my satisfaction. I am a farmer, but my goal is not to produce as much as possible. I feel better living alongside animals and with nature, and in that sense I feel more like an activist for nature than a farmer.”Jachen Andri Planta

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