Hutsuls and Csángós

Carpathian Mountains, Romania

Credit: Daniel Babai

The Carpathian Mountains in Central Europe are home to diverse ethnic groups like the Hutsuls and the Csángós. Known for their species-rich landscapes shaped by smallholder farming, the region has been impacted by socio-political shifts resulting from communism and its subsequent collapse in 1989. Currently, the area is also facing rising temperatures.

HUTSULS AND CSÁNGÓS

The around 7,000 Hutsuls and 14,000 Csángós in Romania are mostly agropastoralists and small-holder farmers.

Credit: Daniel Babai

ACTIVITIES

Herding - Ico

Herding: cows, sheep and pigs.

ico-patata

Agriculture: Potatoes (main crop). Grasslands provide pasture and hay meadows for livestock.

ico-madera

Timber and non-timber forest  products.

TERRITORY AND CLIMATE

Credit: Daniel Babai

Temperate-continental

CLIMATE

Changes in the climate

Thermomether - Ico

Mean winter temperature: -2,5°C
Mean summer temperature: 15°C

The mean temperature is increasing as well as the number of sunshine hours. Lower wind speed.

Water - Ico
Precipitation: 600-1100 mm / year

There’s an increased intensity of heat waves and a decrease of snowfall frequency.

ACCESS TO NATURAL RESOURCES

Changes in the territory

Winter fodder and summer forage are primary resources for livestock.

Access to the EU prompted a rural exodus in search of seasonal work abroad, along with new agri-environmental and climate subsidy schemes, which changed the socio-political context of extensive and small-scale agriculture in both communities. Post-communism, illegal deforestation surged due to unregulated land tenure.

Wood is a versatile resource for farming and household tools.

Wild edible plants and mushrooms supplement food sources. Medicinal plants used both for consumption and commerce.

VOICES OF LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Hutsuls and Csángós have undergone major socio-economic changes. Such changes also lead to changes in cultural values and the way Hutsuls and Csangos relate to the environment. In this complex framework, climate change impacts are not always the main challenge.

Drivers of change

IMPACTS ON LIVELIHOODS AND CULTURE

Credit: Daniel Babai

Policy barriers to climate change adaptation
Climate change has accelerated biomass maturation, while EU subsidy regulations do not allow earlier haymaking, which has led to the disappearance of communal haymaking.

Credit: Daniel Babai

‘This is not our weather’
The hay meadows of the Csangos have changed with the climate, with a decrease in highly valued forage species and an increase in species detrimental to the economy. In parallel, Hutsuls are increasingly adopting a remittance economy model and, thus, altering their relationship with the land.

Credit: Nataliya Stryamets

Even fish depend on forests
Hutsuls reported a decrease of fish in the river, and limited to trout, driven by the increased turbidity of the water due to the soil sliding caused by deforestation.

ENVISIONING A CLIMATE CHANGE-PROOF FUTURE

Elders hold the key to local knowledge
The convergence of climate change and socio-political factors is driving the youth of Csangos and Hutsuls communities to migrate and pursue alternative livelihoods. This trend is leading to a growing disconnection between the younger generations and their traditional landscape, putting centuries of valuable local environmental knowledge at risk of being lost.

Do not always blame climate change
Although the Carpathians exhibit a relatively lower vulnerability to climate change compared to other mountain regions, local communities still perceive trends linked to climate change that affect their livelihoods and agricultural practices, particularly due to rising temperatures. However, they also acknowledge the influence of multiple drivers and assign greater significance to the economic and social impacts.

AS THE CLIMATE EVOLVES, REGULATIONS MUST FOLLOW SUIT

Rigid EU-level regulations related to natural resource management need to be made more flexible, reacting and adapting more quickly to changing environmental and socio-cultural conditions.

LOCAL EXPERIENCE IS WORTH A DEGREE

Only local communities can comprehensively estimate and perceive the impacts of the intricate network of drivers, including climate change, on the local socio-ecological system. This underscores the significance of their knowledge and the importance of amplifying and disseminating local voices on a global scale.

Credit: Nataliya Stryamets

PUBLICATIONS

Mattalia, G., Stryamets, N., Toscano Rivalta V., Reyes-Garcia V. (2023) Local knowledge can enrich our understanding of climate change impacts in data-deficient mountain areas: the case of Hutsuls (Northern Romanian Carpathians) In: Reyes-Garcia and LICCI team Routledge Handbook of Climate Change Impacts on Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. ISBN 9781032412139

FIELDWORK CONDUCTED BY

Giulia Mattalia and Daniel Babai