El DALA: UN calls for protection of livestock farming worldwide

El DALA: UN calls for protection of livestock farming worldwide
23 May 2024

Pastures occupy 54 % of all land in the world, but half of them, according to experts, are subject to degradation. The “silent death” of vast grasslands threatens the climate, food and well-being of billions of people, says a new UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report, Land: A Global Outlook.

The report's authors call for protecting pastoralism as a path to restoration and better management of rangelands.

Pasture degradation is manifested by a decrease in soil fertility and nutrients, erosion, salinization, as well as alkalization and compaction of the soil, which impedes plant growth. All this leads to drought, rainfall fluctuations and loss of biodiversity both above and below ground.

The problem is largely due to the conversion of grassland to cropland and other land use changes associated with population growth and urban expansion, soaring demands for food, fiber and fuel, overgrazing and abandonment, and regulations that promote overexploitation of grassland.

As the UNCCD notes, in Central Asia and Mongolia, 60 % of the territory is used for pastures, and cattle breeding provides almost a third of the region’s population. However, efforts to improve food security and productivity by converting rangelands to crop production have resulted in land degradation and declining crop yields.

The report's authors - more than 60 experts from more than 40 countries - agree that previous estimates, which pegged global rangeland degradation at around 25 %, "significantly underestimate the actual loss of rangeland health and productivity," and actual rates could be as high as 50 %.

The report's main recommendation: Protect pastoralism, a mobile lifestyle based on the grazing of sheep, goats, cattle, horses, camels, yaks, llamas and other domesticated herbivores.

To prevent the situation from worsening, the UNCCD calls on countries around the world to change the paradigm of governance at all levels - from grassroots to global.

It is also reported that, at the initiative of Mongolia, the UN General Assembly declared 2026 the International Year of Pastures and Pastoralists. The declaration calls on UN member states to invest in sustainable rangeland management, restore degraded lands, improve pastoralists' access to markets, expand livestock extension platforms and fill gaps in knowledge about rangelands and pastoralism.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international agreement on sustainable land use. Through partnerships, the 197 parties to the Convention have established robust systems to combat drought quickly and effectively.

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