The United Nations continues to see pastoralism as a main reason for desertification, says Drynet, a global initiative on drylands. But a large number of scientific studies contradict this, and instead show the positive effects of pastoralism as a land-use strategy. LPP’s Ilse Koehler-Rollefson and Silke Brehm have collated some of the bright aspects of pastoralism.
“When it rains and drylands bloom, one realises the remarkable diversity of living organisms they harbour. Long overlooked, this diversity is crucial to the food security of a large share of the world’s population.” This information brief describes the importance of dryland agricultural biodiversity, outlines the threats facing it, and points to the key role that local people play in conserving it.
Smallholder farmers and pastoralists fulfil an invaluable yet undervalued role in conserving biodiversity. They act as guardians of locally adapted livestock breeds that can make use of even marginal environments under tough climatic conditions and therefore are a crucial resource for food security and possibly for adapting to climate change. But in addition, by sustaining animals on natural vegetation and as part of local ecosystems, these communities also make a significant contribution to the conservation of wild biodiversity and of cultural landscapes.
The Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources acknowledges and seeks to support this crucial contribution of smallholder farmers and pastoralists to keeping our planet healthy and diverse. The United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues backs up this strategic approach and calls for it to be strengthened, while the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity also commits its signatories to support in situ conservation by local and indigenous communities.
This publication provides a glimpse into the often intricate knowledge systems that pastoralists and smallholder farmers have developed for the management of their breeds in specific production systems. It also describes the multitude of threats and challenges these often marginalized communities have to cope with and suggests interventions that can sustain valuable human-animal-environment relationships and combine conservation of breeds and their ecosystems with poverty alleviation.