The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have published a report concluding that pastoralism-extensive livestock production in rangelands should be treated as a key element in the global transition to a green economy, as it provides “enormous benefits to humanity.”
9 March 2015: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have published a report concluding that pastoralism-extensive livestock production in rangelands should be treated as a key element in the global transition to a green economy, as it provides “enormous benefits to humanity.”
The report, titled ‘Pastoralism and the Green Economy – a Natural Nexus?,’ addresses: the role of pastoralism in protecting natural capital; pastoralism’s resource efficiency and sustainable production in dryland environments; and conditions that enable pastoralism to deliver on its green economy potential. It calls for, inter alia, a global development framework for sustainable pastoralism.
Released during the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 3rd Scientific Conference in Cancun, Mexico, the report finds that sustainable pastoralism on rangeland ecosystems, such as desert grasslands, woodlands and steppes: maintains soil fertility and soil carbon; contributes to water regulation and biodiversity conservation; and provides goods such as high-value food products. The publication points out that though pastoralism is practiced by up to half a billion people globally, lack of investment has eroded this way of life in many developing countries.
Speaking on the report, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner stated that, with progress, the demand for animal protein will only increase. He noted that through targeted policies, greater attention to pastoralism could help meet this demand while also protecting rangeland biodiversity and ecosystem services and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Grazing lands cover five billion hectares worldwide and sequester between 200-500kg of carbon per hectare per year. However, up to 70% of dryland soil carbon can be lost through conversion to agricultural use. The report explains that effective animal grazing by pastoralists can promote the necessary biodiversity and biomass production to maintain these carbon sinks, while improved grazing management could sequester 409 million tonnes of CO2, or around 9.8% of anthropogenic carbon emissions.
The report outlines a number of recommendations aimed at increasing sustainable pastoralism through, inter alia, improved governance, greater engagement of pastoralist communities and increased market access. In addition to establishing a global development framework for sustainable pastoralism, the report recommends: connecting pastoralists to domestic and international livestock markets; capitalizing on the environmental benefits of pastoralism and expanding “green niche markets;” strengthening property rights and governance over rangeland resources; and integrating pastoralists into the development mainstream by improving representation in decision making and promoting innovation in the provision of basic services, including education, health, communications, safe water and renewable energy. [UNEP Press Release] [IUCN Press Release] [UNEP Briefing Note] [Publication: Pastoralism and the Green Economy – a Natural Nexus?] [IISD RS Coverage of UNCCD 3rd Scientific Conference]