AKIPRESS.COM - Italian farmers have turned to their counterparts in Kyrgyzstan to combat the loss of agricultural traditions on the island of Sardinia, the Financial Times reports.
In a new attempt to solve rural recruitment problems, Italian agricultural trade group Coldiretti has turned to Kyrgyzstan to recruit shepherds skilled in Sardinian specialties such as goat and sheep cheese making and horse breeding.
Coldiretti said it had signed an agreement with Kyrgyzstan's Labor Ministry to allow local shepherds and their families to work under special labor contracts in abandoned areas of Sardinia.
The agreement between Coldiretti and the Kyrgyz government marks the first pilot project of its kind and comes after Italian Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida called on the EU to "protect [agriculture] as a strategic asset."
Sardinia is known for its meat and dairy production and beach resorts, but its economy has suffered as workers leave it as younger generations move to the mainland in search of work.
The new pilot project aims to recruit 100 Kyrgyz citizens aged 18 to 45 with experience in agriculture to move to the rural areas of Sassari, Barbagy and Sarrabus. Their visas will initially be temporary but will become permanent once they complete their training and internship programs. Kyrgyz workers in Italy will be supported by "cultural intermediaries," Coldiretti said in a statement.
"The project aims to combat rural abandonment, which has also been affected by an aging population and falling birth rates," Coldiretti said. It said "thousands of foreigners" could move to the area in the long term.
Coldiretti said Italian agriculture employs 358,000 foreign workers legally from 164 countries, including seasonal workers, accounting for about a quarter of the sector's workforce.