Raising the stakes in Ghana

Photo credit: IWMI

Abdullah, a Fulani crop and livestock farmer, at home on the farm near the village of Jimli

Why fences, crop rotation and water storage mean one farmer is no longer losing the plot in Northern Ghana


Abdullah practices a livestock/crop rotation system. He keeps livestock on a designated piece of land for a period of time ensuring a build-up of manure in one specific area. He achieves this by using simple fencing made from sticks and branches. After moving the livestock on to another site on his farm he grows crops there for three years. After that the soil fertility begins to drop and he brings the livestock back to the same site again.

Abdullah Ahjedi and Chief Issahaku Jesiwuni inspect Abdullah’s simple but effective livestock fences made from branches - http://i1.wp.com/www.iwmi.cgiar.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Abdullah-Ahjedi-and-Chief-Issahaku-Jesiwuni.jpg?resize=509%2C339
Abdullah Ahjedi and Chief Issahaku Jesiwuni inspect Abdullah’s simple but effective livestock fences made from branches – http://i1.wp.com/www.iwmi.cgiar.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Abdullah-Ahjedi-and-Chief-Issahaku-Jesiwuni.jpg?resize=509%2C339

Fencing is an unusual technology for a Fulani to embrace. Yet it is a strategy that has the potential to improve his crop yields and also play a role in reducing conflict between different communities. Conflict between predominantly semi-nomadic, pastoralists and more sedentary crop farmers is a regular occurrence in the north of Ghana sometimes leading to violence and death of one or more of the parties involved.

Collecting water for household use every day takes a lot of time and effort. This activity is mostly done by women and children. - http://i0.wp.com/www.iwmi.cgiar.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Collecting-water-for-household-use.jpg?resize=325%2C227
Collecting water for household use every day takes a lot of time and effort. This activity is mostly done by women and children. – http://i0.wp.com/www.iwmi.cgiar.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Collecting-water-for-household-use.jpg?resize=325%2C227

Trouble invariably arises when a pastoralist’s livestock (generally cattle) have crossed over into someone else’s crop fields and eaten or otherwise destroyed them, and along with it their owner’s livelihood. Increasing the use of fencing in the region to keep livestock in certain areas and, equally importantly, out of others will help to remove a key catalyst that pits one community against the other.

The Sertão Project for protection of the caatinga biome

Photo credit: Rural Poverty Portal

Sustainable Development Project for Agrarian Reform Settlements in the Semi-Arid North-East – November 2007 ©Ubirajara Machado/MDA/IFAD

Protecting the environment through sustainable production

The Sustainable Land Management in the Semi-Arid Sertão Project was designed as a complement to the IFAD-financed Dom Helder Câmara Project (DHCP), which ran from 1998 to 2007 in various areas of the semi-arid northeastern Brazil. The Sertão Project aimed to address pressing environmental and land degradation issues, and to build resilience to climate change. The project focused on the caatinga — a uniquely Brazilian scrub forest covering approximately 10 per cent of the total area of the country. The caatinga is one of Brazil’s most threatened natural landscapes.

In semi-arid northeastern Brazil, the main causes of land degradation are overgrazing and using of inappropriate agricultural practices such as burning. All that has led to the elevation of the water table and the salinization due to excessive irrigation, the salinization produced by irrigation and the deforestation for crops and livestock-raising. As a result, the caatinga biome’s rapid degradation prevented it from providing natural protection for its unique biodiversity.

The overall goal of the Sertão Project was therefore to minimize the causes and negative impacts of land degradation and to protect the integrity of the caatinga biome, through the implementation of sustainable land use systems.

Results and achievements

Read the full article: Rural Poverty Portal

Herdsmen and land management

Photo credit: Pixabay

Massai people in Tanzania

Tanzania: Climate Change and Ideal Land Management

Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)



THE story of a pastoralist in a remote part of Iringa Region on the Iringa -Dodoma road who tried to hang himself after losing 400 heads of cattle due to drought still lingers in my mind.

That was in 2006. He was a rich man by some standards but one day he woke up a very poor man.

The fact that he had nothing worth his name on earth and the loss of social status in the community made him decide to take his life rather than face the humiliation.

Massai herders - http://media-3.web.britannica.com/eb-media/55/20155-004-C8550C5E.jpg
Massai herders – http://media-3.web.britannica.com/eb-media/55/20155-004-C8550C5E.jpg

Many Masai pastoralists lost huge numbers of livestock, a situation which made some of them migrate to Kenya with what had remained of their herds, where the drought was not so severe.

When the drought ended, the pastoralists came back home with their herds and a new breed of cattle which could tolerate harsh conditions.

They also learned some lessons; one was the importance of land use planning- setting aside different areas for grazing during the dry season and the rainy season instead of leaving the herds to graze anyhow.

Massai in Tanzania - http://www.serengetivacationlandsafari.com/images/maasai-tribe-in-tanzania.jpg
Massai in Tanzania – http://www.serengetivacationlandsafari.com/images/maasai-tribe-in-tanzania.jpg

They also brought with them some seeds and cuttings for legumes and grass that could grow well in semi-arid areas instead of depending only on indigenous pastures.

Read the full article : allAfrica

No overgrazing: sustainable production of meat, milk and compost

Photo credit: Permaculture News

Some New Angles on Grazing Cells

by Sean Dixon-Sullivan

The Big Scrub is gone; destroyed by loggers and cattle farmers a century ago. What was once Australia’s largest subtropical rainforest—900km2 of biodiversity—is now largely home to cows and grass. Even between these two components many landowners still struggle to enforce balance. Thistle-covered paddies, eroded hillsides, compacted soils with sparse vegetation—scars from this struggle cover the region’s rolling lowlands..

Yet the struggle is an unnecessary one, as one farm in the region is demonstrating. Observe nature; learn to work with it rather than against it. These are principles of permaculture and the basis of the Grazing Method at Zaytuna farm (ZGM). We know that the most sustainable—the most balanced—designs are those that most closely mimic natural ecosystems. As Joel Salatin observes:

“Herbivores in nature exhibit three characteristics: mobbing for predator protection, movement daily onto fresh forage and away from yesterday’s droppings, and a diet consisting of forage only.”1Hence the ZGM practices short-term cell rotations.

Read the full article: Permaculture News

Livestock to Markets

Photo credit: Treehugger

© Livestock is the primary measure of wealth among herding communities of northern Kenya. CREDIT: Ron Geatz

A key tool in driving the better management of the rangelands is access to markets.

By Charlotte Kaiser, Deputy Managing Director at NatureVest, The Nature Conservancy.

For thousands of years the pastoralist communities of northern Kenya have herded their cattle alongside elephants and zebras, the grass of the rangelands shared between livestock and wildlife in relative balance. In recent decades, climate change, habitat loss, and human population growth have combined to erode that balance, leading to overgrazing and the degradation of the grasslands that both humans and wildlife need to survive.

For over a decade, the Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT) has worked with the communities of Northern Kenya to develop community conservancies that support better management of cattle and grass. Through rotational grazing, grass banking, and other practices, the NRT Conservancies have seen habitat improve and human-wildlife interactions decrease.

A key tool in driving the better management of the rangelands is access to markets. Historically, the pastoralist communities lacked easy access to a market for their cattle. While cows are capital for these communities, families do need cash for school fees and other expenses, and without access to markets are forced to trek animals long distances to sell them for a poor price to a middleman trader. Without ready access to markets, pastoralists amass overly large herds. During droughts, fear of mass cattle starvation drives pastoralists to sell animals at low prices in a buyers’ market, or risk losing most of their herd to starvation.

The changes of production efficiency


Study of the Relationship between Scale and Production Efficiency in Desertification Grassland–A Case Study of Arxant Village in Xisu County


Core of this paper consists of two aspects:(1) measure the production efficiency of the 85 subjects using DEA method, which is indicated by technical efficiency and divided into pure technical efficiency and scale efficiency. Grouped by the cattle scale and pasture size, this part discussed the relationship between scale and efficiency. (2) Analyze the underlying factors caused the non-efficiency and differences using SFA method.Results of DEA method shows that:most of the households achieve a relatively higher efficiency in extremely poor production conditions; half of the households operate at the stage of increasing returns to scale; the relationship between scale and technical efficiency is not a simple positive or negative relationship. That is, if the scale is indicated by the number of livestock that households own, the technical efficiency shows an inverted V-curve with the expansion of the cattle scale; if the scale is indicated by the pasture size, the technical efficiency is still shown in the early changes of V-type curve, but the technical efficiency of the largest-sized grassland has declined again. In spite of a downward trend, its technical efficiency is still higher than the efficiency of the middle scale. The production efficiency of medium-sized household has greater room for improvement.SFA method results show that:first, capital is a key factor that can promote the output. Second, overall speaking, households operate at the stage of increasing returns to scale and most of the households achieve a relatively higher efficiency. Third, buying fodder, using Mechanical equipment and improvement of livestock breed help to improve the production efficiency.

Read the full article: Education Papers

Pioneering ecosystem restoration practices

Photo credit: Google

Guanacos grazing in field in Patagonia

Overgrazing and Desertification


For centuries, Patagonia’s vast expanses of arid grasslands supported large herds of wild herbivores grazing on native grasses and scrubs. However, the introduction of sheep (and occasionally cattle) ranching in the early 20th century quickly destroyed this ecological balance. Although these hardy pioneers in Patagonia displayed admirable fortitude in braving the harsh climate, they established a system of land use that could not thrive given the region’s geography and ecology. Stocking rates were consistently over 60% above the estimated carrying capacity of the land. Domestic animals, particularly sheep, inflict far more damage on grasses as they graze than do native herbivores.

Overgrazing in Patagonia – http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org/images/whypatagonia_mtp_overgrazing_03t.jpg

The result: vast areas of remote and undeveloped Patagonia approach irreversible ecological collapse. As livestock strips an area down to minimal vegetation, a downward spiral begins. Sheep are selective grazers and long-standing irresponsibility in management has intensified grazing patterns of uneven utilization. This inequity in grazing can lead to animal distribution levels that vary from 8 to 20 times the total stocking rate of a given pasture. This grazing pattern makes it virtually impossible for certain plants to recover. More and more woody, unpalatable plants dominate the landscape as livestock selectively eat grasses and not these scrubs, rendering the land less productive for both livestock and wildlife.

Grasslands recover and wildlife returns: http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org/images/whypatagonia_mtp_overgrazing_06t.jpg
Grasslands recover and wildlife returns –  http://www.conservacionpatagonica.org/images/whypatagonia_mtp_overgrazing_06t.jpg

Read the full article: Conservacion Patagonica

Low rainfall in Namibia

Photo credit: Google

Tok Tokkie desert in Namibia

Namibia: Below-Average Rainfall Could Hamper Grazing

The low rainfall figures recorded in Namibia this year could lead to reduced grazing in some parts of the country.

The latest Food Security Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET) Agromet Update Bulletin – issued and prepared in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) last month – indicated that rainfall was generally low in the north-west and north-central parts of Namibia in November and December.

Heavy rainfall was, however, received in some areas in early December.

“The low rainfall has led to reduced grazing in parts of the country, with satellite images of vegetation also indicating below-average conditions in some of the northern areas.

With the national seasonal forecast predicting normal-to-below normal rainfall for the period January to March 2015 in some of these areas, close monitoring will be required,” it cautioned.

The low rainfall was associated with a delayed and erratic onset of rains. In many of the affected areas, the seasonal onset of rains was delayed by 30 to 40 days, according to the bulletin.

However, it warned that the delayed onset and subsequent late planting could shorten the time available for crops to grow and mature before the end of the season, or before the mid-season dry spells set in.

This will potentially result in reduced crop yields and delayed harvests.

Read the full article: allAfrica

To remove all livestock grazing in the forests

Photo credit: Pixabay

Forest landscape in Kenya

Kenya: Stop Grazing in Forests, Locals Told

MARAKWET farmers living near Cherangany and Embobut forests have until Saturday to remove all livestock grazing in the forests.

The Kenya Forest Service gave a 70-day notice on November 19 last year, requiring all farmers grazing their animals in the forests to register and move their animals out of the forests.

Read the full article: allAfrica

See also: allAfrica


Overgrazing leading to soil desertification

 Photo credit: Pixabay

Livestock at the Nile

How does overgrazing cause desertification?

By Lauren Carlson

In the film, “Hope in a Changing Climate,” reviewed last month, there is a discussion of overgrazing leading to soil desertification. But how does this happen? When livestock eat plants down to the roots, the plants grow short, unsustainable roots and eventually, the plants will stop growing altogether. This leaves large open areas with no vegetation where the soil is exposed to the elements. The soil becomes very dry and desertification occurs; the land ostensibly becomes a desert. It can change the landscape, destroy the productivity of the land, and it is extremely harmful to the biodiversity of an ecosystem.

Read the full article: Population Education

To graze or not to graze ?

Photo credit: Pixabay





It almost seems counter intuitive. One of the primary causes of desertification is over-grazing, so how could holistic grazing reverse it? That’s where Allan Savory’s talk comes in. Allan is the president and co-founder of the Savory Institute, an organization whose mission is to heal the land through large-scale restoration of grasslands. Their goal is to empower others by teaching them about holistic management and helping them implement on the ground changes within their community to reverse desertification. The talk is so powerful, I wanted to share it with you all.

Read the full article: Food Renegade

All about desertification and countermeasures

Photo credit: Pixabay

Peru: oasis

Post 21 – Op. Ed. Desertification


Countermeasures and prevention:

Techniques exist for mitigating or reversing the effects of desertification, however there are numerous barriers to their implementation. One of these is that the costs of adopting sustainable agricultural practices sometimes exceed the benefits for individual farmers, even while they are socially and environmentally beneficial.[citation needed] Another issue is a lack of political will, and lack of funding to support-land reclamation and anti-desertification programs.

Desertification is recognized as a major threat to biodiversity. Some countries have developed Biodiversity Action Plans to counter its effects, particularly in relation to the protection of endangered flora and fauna.

Reforestation gets at one of the root causes of desertification and is not just a treatment of the symptoms. Environmental organizations work in places where deforestation and desertification are contributing to extreme poverty. There they focus primarily on educating the local population about the dangers of deforestation and sometimes employ them to grow seedlings, which they transfer to severely deforested areas during the rainy season.

Techniques focus on two aspects: provisioning of water, and fixation and hyper-fertilizing soil.

Fixating the soil is often done through the use of shelter belts, woodlots and windbreaks. Windbreaks are made from trees and bushes and are used to reduce soil erosion and evapotranspiration. They were widely encouraged by development agencies from the middle of the 1980s in the Sahel area of Africa.

Some soils (for example, clay), due to lack of water can become consolidated rather than porous (as in the case of sandy soils). Some techniques as zaï or tillage are then used to still allow the planting of crops.

Another technique that is useful is contour trenching. This involves the digging of 150m long, 1m deep trenches in the soil. The trenches are made parallel to the height lines of the landscape, preventing the water from flowing within the trenches and causing erosion. Stone walls are placed around the trenches to prevent the trenches from closing up again. The method was invented by Peter Westerveld.

Read the full article: Freeman’s Agricultural Collective

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