“If we don’t get aid, how can we make sure that the reindeer survive this winter?” Niila Inga, chair of the Swedish Sami Association, told The Local on Thursday after meeting government officials in Stockholm to make his case.
“It’s a question of survival for the reindeer and for the whole Sami culture, because we depend on the reindeer.”
Inga said a solution was urgently required to replace pastures and forests destroyed by this year’s drought and wildfires if reindeer were not to starve to death.
“We really need aid from the government to make sure that we have supplementary food for the reindeer this winter,” he said. “We also see that the climate change has, and still does, attack us very hard, so we also need help from the government to manage this change, to adapt to the new climate.”
Inga, who became the association's chairman in June, said that herders needed funding to investigate new ways of replacing the lichen that reindeer feed on, perhaps by spreading the organism, a symbiotic composite of algae, bacteria and fungi, in forests.
He said herders also needed permission to do more to improve pastures and grazing areas.
“Since we don’t own land, it has to be solved that we are allowed to do it,” he said. “I can’t plant whatever I want on private land.”
Inga complained that the aid package the government announced in July for farmers hit by this year’s drought included no provisions for Sami reindeer herders. He said one solution might be to require landowners in areas used for reindeer grazing to leave supplementary food out for reindeer, paying them for the work out of the aid package.
Following Thursday's meeting, Inga said the government officials he had met in Stockholm were broadly sympathetic.
“They heard us and they understood the problem. We have to hope, it’s the only way of surviving.”