Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #330320

Research Project: MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGIES FOR CONSERVATION OF WESTERN RANGELANDS

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Grazing lands in Sub-Saharan Africa and their potential role in climate change mitigation: What we do and don’t know

Author
item Milne, Eleanor - Colorado State University
item Aynekulu, E. - International Centre For Research In Agroforestry (ICRAF)
item Bationo, A. - Non ARS Employee
item Batjes, Niels - Non ARS Employee
item Boone, R. - Colorado State University
item Conant, R. - Colorado State University
item Davies, J. - International Union For Conservation Of Nature
item Hanan, N. - North Dakota State University
item Hoag, D. - Colorado State University
item Herrick, Jeffrey - Jeff
item Knausenberger, W. - Us Agency For International Development (USAID)
item Neely, C. - International Centre For Research In Agroforestry (ICRAF)
item Njoka, J. - University Of Nairobi
item Ngugi, M. - Us Agency For International Development (USAID)
item Parton, B. - Colorado State University
item Paustian, K. - Colorado State University
item Reid, R. - Colorado State University
item Said, M. - University Of Nairobi
item Shepherd, K. - International Centre For Research In Agroforestry (ICRAF)
item Swift, D. - Colorado State University
item Thornton, P. - University Of Nairobi
item Williams, S. - Colorado State University

Submitted to: Environmental Development
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/8/2016
Publication Date: 7/15/2016
Citation: Milne, E., Aynekulu, E., Bationo, A., Batjes, N.H., Boone, R., Conant, R., Davies, J., Hanan, N., Hoag, D., Herrick, J.E., Knausenberger, W., Neely, C., Njoka, J., Ngugi, M., Parton, B., Paustian, K., Reid, R., Said, M., Shepherd, K., Swift, D., Thornton, P., Williams, S. 2016. Grazing lands in Sub-Saharan Africa and their potential role in climate change mitigation: What we do and don’t know. Environmental Development. 19:70-74.

Interpretive Summary: Grazing by livestock and wildlife is the dominant land use in much of sub-Saharan Africa. When well-managed, these grazinglands provide many services supporting humans both in Africa, and globally. Increases in soil carbon are positively correlated with many of these services, including increased forage production, and removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which reduces global warming. However, pastoralists and other land managers can currently only benefit from the consumption and sale of animal products, and access to wildlife for tourism. This paper reviews available information on the other benefits of grazinglands in sub-Saharan Africa, and how people managing these lands might realize these benefits in the future.

Technical Abstract: Grazinglands cover much of sub-Saharan Africa. When well-managed, these lands provide a wide variety of ecosystem services, many of which are positively correlated with increase in soil carbon. Pastoralists and other land managers are currently rewarded primarily for the production of animal products. This paper reviews the current literature and related knowledge on carbon sequestration in sub-Saharan grazinglands as the basis for six sets of recommendations. 1. C sequestration for climate change mitigation should be treated as a co-benefit rather than the target of a project/activity. 2.  Paying people to maintain C stocks by persisting with existing good practices is likely to be easier than introducing new practices to increase stocks, although problems of paying multiple smallholders would remain. 3.  Projects should be developed with strong input from the communities living in the areas (bottom up) where the project is to occur so that they have a sense of ownership and are then more likely to cooperate in its implementation. 4. When resources are limited, the focus should be on areas where the co-benefits of C sequestration and livelihood improvement are highest and this may be in moderately rather than severely degraded areas. Interventions should consider net livelihoods of local populations as a key metric of success of programs that are aiming to improve rangeland health and C sequestration. 5. Weak evidence of the impact of rangeland management approaches in enhancing C sequestration in non-equilibrial (erratic and changing) systems makes it more difficult to detect management responses and therefore justify management actions. However, carefuly analysis is required since the long-term costs of neglecting these systems may be higher in some cases due to the difficulty of restoration where biophysical thresholds have been crossed. 6. From a purely biophysical C sequestration point of view, investment should be in areas where mineralization rates are low (cold, moist) or input rates are high (warm, wet). In areas where C sequestration rates are likely to be lower (arid, semi-arid) but cover extensive land areas, projects should include C sequestration as part of a package of multiple benefits in which practices that sequester C in grasslands enhance productivity, improve livelihoods, increase biodiversity and benefit multiple ecosystem services.