Friday, 13 December 2013

Livestock: The answer, not the problem?

Post written by C. Will

Seth Itzkan of Planet-TECH discusses how holistic management can restore grass lands and reverse the effects of climate change in his TEDx talk; “How global warming can be mitigated through holistic management”.

In the video, Seth discusses his experiences in Zimbabwe and how the village herders have changed the way they manage their livestock. Using holistic management, they have replenished grasslands and during the dry season surface water is occurring further upstream than before. Increased availability of surface water has made farming easier and removed the need for water pumps, saving money. Regenerating grasslands also increases soil sequestration, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Holistic management uses livestock in a way that mimics wild herds which were a key component in the ecosystem when grasslands thrived. The wild herds would graze, naturally process the grass, fertilise the ground and then move onto a new area. The villagers are now replicating this process by running livestock in dense packs and moving them regularly just as a wild herd would. They also stick to grazing plans to prevent over grazing.         

Although his focus is on environments that have suffered desertification (the transformation of habitable land to desert), parallels can be made between the framework of holistic management and the way farmers in New Zealand manage their stock. Relative to farmers in Africa though, New Zealand farmers have lower emissions per unit of production and are more efficient. However, even in New Zealand many farmers can apply management strategies other farmers are already using to reduce their environmental impact. A recent Motu working paper, looks at such mitigation possibilities.

Holistic management was a way of managing resources originally developed by Allan Savory. Here Allan offers further discussion on holistic management and “how to fight desertification and reverse climate change”.

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