“Usi civici” is a form of common management of land. It belongs to those systems of "rights of common use" which developed in Middle Ages in consequence of the breeders' need of managing common properties, such as agricultural lands surrounding villages, pastures, forests and rivers, as well as tools or buildings used by the members of the community. They are inalienable, imprescriptible, not negotiable; they cannot be acquired by usucaption and legally they are governed by the regulations which administer the State land; they apply only to the people who reside in a certain territory. In Trentino Alto-Adige, as well as in other Italian regions, "usi civici" practice still survive; during the 20th century these rights (originally unwritten) were written out in specific laws.
Today this practice is still existing and vital, although the extensive cow breeding decline (during the second half of 20th century) has consistently reduced it; policies at an European as well as at a provincial level recognized the importance of breeding for the rural ecosystems and cultural landscapes preservation and introduced payments for supporting such practices.
- common management of forests and pastures
- management of malgas
- (today) preservation of territory and landscape by means of “private” management
One of "usi civici" important applications (in past and present times) concerns the management of pastures. Traditionally, in the Province of Trento there was a consistent cow (but also sheep and goat) breeding activity, based on the common management of pastures and dairy activities. For the cow breeding a short migratory herding, from the valley bottom to mountain pastures, was an usual practice; cows from several farms were grouped together and kept in a mountain herd (malga) for three months, from mid-June to mid-September, thereby allowing the breeders to concentrate on hay making and other farm works. In some cases the breeders paid a person for keeping the cows; in some others it was the shepherd that rent the pasture with the related buildings and the farmers had to pay him a quota (in money or in products) for each animal.
In the present time “usi civici” practice, especially when related to forests and pastures management, is an important means for landscape and territory preservation.
- ASUCs administrate activities relating to forests and pastures management and actually earn money especially by the sale of wood, but also by the rental of malgas and in some cases by the exploitation of water resources;
- communities: the management of forests and pastures by the ASUCs allows to preserve and “clean” the marginal territories, preventing natural disasters such as landslides, fires and floods, and improves the quality of landscape;
- breeders: some malgas are still used for housing the cattle during the good season
- whole population: the money earned by the activities related to the commons can be invested in an improvement of the land or other activities which benefit the whole community
WHY is the best practice considered as good
“Usi civici”, as a form of local administration of land, have proved to be quite efficient as well as an important instrument for encouraging the residents' care for their own territory; ASUCs can be good mediators for actions aimed at preserving the rural and natural heritage.
They encourage the preservation of traditions, the maintenance of landscape and can help the development of tourism.
WHAT are the measurable results
- Usability of territory, which otherwise would be abandoned and subject to degradation processes
- Possibility for privates of carrying their cattle on mountain pastures under the surveillance of shepherds residing in malgas
- Income deriving by the timber sale
New opportunities created on the local level
- Jobs related to malgas activities
- Jobs related to the management of forests and of other resources
ASUCs don't need any financial resources, while requiring the availability of much human capital; on the contrary, they provide financial resources, which for some villages constitute an important source of income.
Possibility of tansferring the best practice
ASUCs are a very old practice, still vital today, deriving by the stratification of rights and practices during time; so it's impossible to estimate how much time it needed to develop it.