Evaluating people-environment trade-offs through low-tech intensification of livestock management in communal grazing systems in South Africa (Trade-offs in communal range land systems)

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Funders

BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council), GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund)

Value

£789,256

Duration

2 years starting 01/04/2019

Collaborators

Rothamsted Research (UK), Conservation South Africa, Stellenbosch University and Rhodes University.

Team

James Bennett, Stefanie Lemke, Heidi-Jayne Hawkins (CSA), Cletos Mapiye (SU), Tony Palmer (RU)

 

Project Objectives

The overall aim of this project is to evaluate trade-offs between novel range management practices (intensified planned grazing, corralling and removal of woody plants) so that production, ecosystem function and livelihood outcomes are enhanced in a way that is socially appropriate for 345 local people on 8 000 ha of communal range and crop lands in SA, with a potential to reach up to 2000 people on 50 000 ha of land over two years.

The project’s specific objectives are to: 

  1. Analyse the conceptual linkages between regulatory frameworks, local institutions and livelihoods and how these shape behaviours and range management practices in communal systems, with a focus on marginalized groups.
  2. Co-construct stakeholder priorities for use of communal grazing lands and identify associated trade-offs.
  3. Evaluate planned grazing and application of IAP-biomass and biochar as tools to increase soil carbon and fertility on range and cropland.
  4. Quantify the impact of thinning woody plants and removing IAPs on potential evapotranspiration and soil water availability in communal catchments.
  5. Evaluate the use of cleared alien woody plants as a livestock fodder.
  6. Model productivity gains as balanced against ecosystem function, plant diversity and soil characteristics from the various trials
  7. Use the model outputs to explore trade-offs associated with different rangeland management practices and alternative land use scenarios and how these fit with the stakeholder objectives.

Grazing systems in South Africa

Impact

This project involves working with six local communities in the Matatiele area of Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, to explore alternative rangeland management strategies that yield livelihood benefits for local people as well as improved ecosystem benefits. Specifically, we will test the role of intensive grazing and corralling of community livestock, in conjunction with the removal of Invasive Alien Plants (IAPs) to increase primary production of grassland, soil carbon and fertility and water availability, as well as improve livestock productivity. As part of this we propose the novel use of the removed IAPs as a soil amendment and as a supplemental feed for livestock. In order to link these different production outcomes the project will develop an integrated model of livestock and rangeland production. We will use the outcomes of this model to explore the potential trade-offs between local people and environment and between different groups of stakeholders (e.g. between conservationists and local farmers and between different groups of farmers) in the context of clearly defined ‘scenarios’ for the use of communal rangelands, which will be co-developed with local stakeholders. Importantly, these scenarios will give voice to the more marginalised members of local communities such as women, who many not have livestock and have greater dependency on the harvesting of natural resources. The trade-off outcomes will be shared with local stakeholders and used to support decisions about how best to make use of the alternative rangeland management techniques to achieve the different land use scenarios they have identified.

The proposal is unique in that it is the first attempt to use an integrated model of animal and plant production to explore trade-offs between different production scenarios in a communal grazing system in South Africa. If successful the approach has potential for extrapolation to many more communities throughout Eastern Cape Province and other communal grazing areas of South Africa through an existing ‘Herding for Health’ initiative that the project builds on.

For more information on this project please contact James Bennett.