This solution is so simply and the experiment has been successful!
Reversing desertification with livestock in Zimbabwe
After three years of holistic grazing grass cover has dramatically increased
ACHM/SIAccording to the UN, 12 million hectares of land - an area the size of Benin - are lost globally to desertification every year. "Continued land degradation is a threat to food security, leading to starvation among the most acutely affected communities and robbing the world of productive land," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of a decade-long effort to tackle desertification in August 2010.
Meanwhile, an approach using livestock and specific grazing regimes has seen desertification reversed on over 2,500 hectares of degraded land, in Zimbabwe.
Overgrazing is often seen as a major cause of desertification. But by changing the way animals are managed, the Savory Institute (SI) and Africa Center for Holistic Management (ACHM) have restored 2,700 hectares of degraded land close to Victoria Falls by increasing livestock numbers by 400 per cent.
Having increased land productivity, water availability and improved livelihoods, the approach is now being adopted by local communities and pastoralists in Namibia, Zambia, Kenya and Ethiopia.
A source of hope
The grazing approach*, an example of 'holistic management', mimics the natural movements of large herds of wild grazing animals. Livestock are grazed in one area for a maximum of three days, and are not returned for at least nine months. "Overgrazing is a function of time and not of animal numbers," explains Allan Savory, ACHM founder, former wildlife biologist, farmer and consultant. "Whether there is one cow or a thousand does not alter the fact of overgrazing but merely changes the number of plants overgrazed if the animals remain too long in the same place."
Moving across the land in large numbers, the animals break the soil crust with their hooves, trample litter to provide soil cover, and fertilise the soil with nutrient-rich dung and urine.
This increases plant growth and improves soil quality.
"What we are demonstrating is that we can return to formerly animal-maintained grasslands and savannahs to keep grasslands and their soils alive without burning billions of hectares annually to remove old dead grass in an attempt to keep such grasslands healthy," explains Savory.
"The effects are impressive," Savory enthuses. "We can barely keep pace with grass growth, even in dry years."
Increased organic matter and improved soil structure also increase water infiltration and retention within the soil. "The river, which was dry most years, is now flowing again in all but the driest years," Savory observes. "We have water in pools with water lilies and fish through the dry season a kilometre above where they have been known before."