The session will discuss the application of indigenous pastoralist knowledge and management practices in biodiversity conservation. Pastoralism is a livestock production system that relies heavily on the continued service exchanges with its ecosystems. A close link exists between pastoral peoples, the ecosystems in which they live, and the animals that they breed. It therefore has a significant role to play in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. Pastoralists employ indigenous management systems and naturally adopt many of the principles that target the maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem health.
Nonetheless, factors such as continuing biodiversity loss, accelerating climate variability, and loss of pastoral ways of life – due to enforced sedentarization programs, i.e. agriculture expansion, urbanization and disruption of livestock corridors and mobility routes, etc. – put the future of pastoralism and its role in biodiversity conservation at an imbalance. In addition, invasive plant species are presenting an increasing threat through both competition for grazing or through the replacement of high nutritional value plants with species with a lower nutritional value. The introduction of high water demand invasive tree species is also disrupting water availability in some rangeland areas.Despite the environmental challenges facing pastoral systems, pastoralists have traditionally managed rangelands sustainably and delivered a number of positive benefits for biodiversity. In recent years, research has been providing scientific evidence of these positive environmental externalities. For example, in many cases, sustainable mobility and grazing practices actually increase species diversity and stimulate pasture growth, thus maintaining ecosystem structures. In addition, pastoralism sustains diversity in ecosystems by reducing the risk of local extinctions due to increased inbreeding and loss of animal genetic variation in small populations. Pastoralism also contributes to the reduction of disasters such as fires, drought and flooding through the active management of vegetative cover. Studies have shown that desertification often occurs where policies undermine the pastoralist indigenous knowledge system, otherwise if supported by appropriate policies, biodiversity and ecosystem integrity are usually enhanced. Understanding and promoting these benefits, and thus feeding back positively on the system, have been shown to make good economic sense.Indeed, the pastoral systems apply an ecosystem approach through their indigenous knowledge practices. The approach promotes conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in an equitable way through recognizing that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of ecosystems. Supporting and implementing pastoralists’ indigenous knowledge practices and management systems to realize the benefits on biodiversity is crucial. Our session will highlight some of these practices and knowledge systems applied by pastoralists to conserve biodiversity. For that purpose, we will use case studies from the field, as well as conceptual frameworks applicable to different geographical landscapes and tools developed by FAO and other stakeholders – such as the FAO Technical Guide 6 (Improving governance of Pastoral lands), the Bio-cultural community protocol, and the IFAD Pastoral Development Toolkit
4:00pm - 4:15pm
Assessing the Contribution of Pastoralism to Biodiversity
Practiced by millions of people across the world, extensive pastoralism presents strong opportunities and potential for conserving both plant and animal biodiversity and providing food and livelihood security and resilience. The triple features of shared use of natural resources, mobility, and rearing of local livestock breeds has allowed pastoralists to exploit the variability of non-equilibrium environments as well as manage resources for their continuous regeneration.
Pastoralism produces sustainable, locally adapted and organic animal source products preserving both local animal and plant genetic resources. It provides a viable alternative in the face of growing concerns over the climate crisis, and provides a range of beneficial ecosystem services. These include improved soil fertility, biodiversity conservation, especially domestic animal genetic resources, seed dispersal, preventing wildfires, promoting nutrient cycling, habitat preservation and carbon sequestration; all contribute to the conservation of local plant and animal life. Therefore, pastoralism is a best case for sustainable, agroecological and ecosystemic livestock production and biodiversity conservation.
However, there is lack of evidence to support these claims. Several initiatives have attempted to bridge the gap in technical and scientific knowledge available regarding pastoralism and its interaction with the ecosystem. Additionally, there is a need to enhance the quality and accessibility of available information. Growing pressures on pastoralism that call for a rapid transformation of the livelihood go hand-in-hand with the lack of knowledge to support pro-pastoralist policy advocacy.
FAO’s Animal Genetics and Production Unit has responded to growing interests in pastoralism by providing a platform for pastoral voices within FAO and globally. It hosts the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub (PKH). This platform is made up of, on one hand, pastoralist alliances and networks that wish to join global policy dialogues and share their knowledge and views, and, on the other hand, international partnerships to voice the pastoralist and share the technical knowledge they have gathered on pastoralism. The PKH has been developing a project that will focus on the elaboration of a tool to assess the contribution of pastoralism to biodiversity. Such a tool will allow to get pastoralism-specific and disaggregated data on the contribution of pastoralism to biodiversity.
4:15pm - 4:30pm
How Pastoralists Nurture Biodiversity
League for Pastoral Peoples
By its nature, pastoralism supports and nurtures biodiversity at many different levels and scales. Pastoralism is the only way of systematic food production that does not replace native vegetation with crops, usually mono-crops. Pastoralist herds transport seeds over long distances. They directly deposit manure on fields where it feeds micro-organisms in the soil. Pastoralist food production does not require herbicides and insecticides, thereby avoiding damage to bees and other pollinators, including butterflies and moths. Moreover, the droppings of grazing animals act as incubator for a huge diversity of insects that are at the basis of the food chain and feed populations of insectivorous birds, bats and reptiles. Pastoralist livestock is the main source of prey for large carnivores in many protected areas in India. Last but not least, pastoralists are creators plus guardians of the livestock breeds that are best adapted to remain productive during climate challenges. But pastoralists are squeezed out almost everywhere. Therefore, one of the most important actions humanity can take to adapt to climate change is to ensure that pastoralism remains a part of the landscape by protecting migration routes and key grazing areas. This paper will summarize some of the recent scientific research and insights into the connection between pastoralism and biodiversity.
4:30pm - 4:45pm
Yaks In The High Asia Region: Triggering Biodiversity By Traditional Pastoral Practices
YURTA Association, Spain
This paper discusses the function of yak herding practices on keeping biodiversity in the crucial environment and region of High Asia, and how this type of pastoralism is even able to increase biodiversity when is operated in a traditional way by their genuine indigenous breeders and keepers.
Located in the very heart of the Greater Central Asia area, High Asia is probably the most crucial region on Earth in environmental terms. There is found the World´s greatest concentration of high mountains and plateaus, as well as that of glaciers and icefields out of polar regions.
Considered as a transboundary eco-cultural region, all the human communities of High Asia have something in common, no matter if they are of the Mongol, Turkic or Tibetan stock or they profess Buddism or Islam. All of them somehow depend on the same animal species for surviving, which is a true symbol of High Asia and a key piece for the High Asia biodiversity conservation: the yak.
The Pastoralism Knowledge Hub is an excellent FAO initiative on supporting pastoralism and coordinating pastoral networks around the World. In 2016, it propitiated the concreteness of the proposal of creating a World Yak Herders Association, inspired in the already existing World Reindeer Herders Association. The project has also served to take the pulse of High Asia´s health through dialogue with pastoralists and key related actors. This first step for establishing the WYHA was so-called “Community Dialogues in High Asia”, implemented through an eminently anthropological approach based on intensive and diversified fieldwork oriented in three directions:
Formal dialogue with institutions
Informal dialogue with pastoralists
Representational dialogue in the form of workshops integrating pastoralists and facilitators
The outputs of these dialogues, summarized as the results of the WYHA project (Phase 1), proved to be very illuminating findings.
In summary, the WYHA project demonstrated at this first stage that biodiversity conservation is not only compatible with development, but it is precisely the only way by which humans, animals and nature can walk together for mutual benefit.
4:45pm - 5:00pm
Ecosystem Management from a Pastoralist perspective: Case of Localized Frameworks by Cross border Pastoralists
Dynamic Agro-pastoralist Development Organisation (DADO), Uganda, Global Youth for Biodiversity Network (GYBN) Uganda, Fikia Beyond Borders (FBB), Ateker Cultural Center Karamoja (ACCK)
This abstract aims to discuss the ecosystem management from a pastoralist perspective in Karamoja cluster. Pastoralism is a livestock production system that is dependent on ecosystem and contributes towards supporting and enhancing ecosystem services such as pasture for livestock and wildlife, watershed protection, forage, shelter from sun and wind, biodiversity (fauna and flora), carbon sink, wild fruits, herbal medicines, and vegetables.
In Karamoja livestock is a source of social prestige, livelihood and important in cementing social ties through marriages. The age-old stories and knowledge on nature, animals, mountains, social taboos and society form a significant basis for ecosystem stewardship and protection. The strong attachment to livestock is key to managing rangelands eco-systems. “No shepherd would destroy were the herd feast from”.
Karamoja is immensely rich in biodiversity. Its biodiversity cuts across dry and wet ecosystem space this include; Agro-pastoral, Pastoral and Agricultural ecological zones. The zones provide a habitat to a diversity of indigenous trees, fauna, domestic animals. These zones provide dry and wet season grazing areas. The biomes extend from wetland pots to dryland forests and grasses (mountain and savannah cover in rangelands).
The rich biodiversity is coming under pressure; due to conversion of dry season mobility routes and grazing areas into large agricultural crop lands (coffee, cotton, maize), mineral extraction along the communal cross-borders areas, charcoal production, climate variability, indiscriminate opening up of protected areas boundaries, non-native plants, negative perceptions on pastoralism, limited investments to pastoralists areas and poor policy environment.
In this regard, pastoralists have developed local strategies such as localised natural resource sharing agreements with their immediate cross-borders neighbours to ensure protection of diverse shared natural ecosystems as number one priority. Pastoralist utilize several eco-zones, following both water and pastures while leaving other areas furrow to regenerate. The processes involved stakeholders mapping, consultative meetings, dialogues and participatory group discussions to identify rangeland ecology, social services, livestock mobility routes and grazing areas.
It was important to recognise the values, and contribution of pastoralists into biodiversity management by supporting local institutions (grassroots traditional governance structures) and frameworks by indigenous pastoralist organisations on dryland ecosystem management is critical.
5:00pm - 5:15pm
Biodiversity makes shepherds of the Italian Alps landscape ambassadors
DISAFA - University of Torino, Italy
In the NW Italian Alps, pastoral systems represent examples of resilience and adaptation necessary to maintain and recover grazing lands. Traditional shepherds are aware they represent a defense of biodiversity through their own livestock practices. Thanks to their presence and territory knowledge, they represent ambassadors of biodiversity. The ecosystem approach, from the autochthonous breeds to the local knowledge practices, has to accompany the transfer and diffusion of innovations and demonstration actions, as well as education projects. In this way, pastoralism and relevant landscapes will have a stronger connotation within the political and socio-cultural context.
5:15pm - 5:30pm
Transhumance in the Face of Climate Change and for the Conservation of Biodiversity
Trashumancia y Naturaleza, Spain
The millenary transhumance – with large herds of cattle traversing Spain each spring toward the northern mountains, to return in the autumn to the southern pastures – is considered by most modern technicians and specialists as an anachronistic activity, condemned to a rapid and desirable disappearance. However, the current environmental and social problems that affect our planet (increasingly super populated and threatened by global warming) make Spanish transhumance gain special relevance, as an example of sustainable use and adaptation to confront the great challenges that will affect humanity during the next decades: detecting water and food for 9,000 million people, without further degrading natural resources and soil fertility; conserving biodiversity and traditional cultures; reducing greenhouse gas emissions; mitigating and adapting to climate change and rising sea levels, which will flood many of the most productive and populated regions on the planet.
By being able to adapt immediately to changing climatic conditions, transhumant herds can avoid adverse situations, by having a unique livestock infrastructure in the world: the national transhumance corridors, with more than 125,000 km in length and 400,000 Ha of surface, which connect all the regions of the country. Nonetheless, their functionality as ecological corridors requires that they be grazed and fertilized regularly by cattle. Every thousand sheep or every one hundred cows contribute daily to the land they pass by through more than three tons of manure with about five million seeds, of which more than 30% will germinate later. Therefore, during a traditional month- and 500 km-long transhumance, by grazing the grasses and scrubbing the bushes, each herd fertilizes the corridors with more than one hundred tons of fertilizer and two hundred million seeds, which are transferred for tens of kilometers from valleys and hillsides to peaks and plateaus, thus facilitating that the plants, and the animal species that depend on them, can adapt and survive the new climatic conditions.