About a year ago, I was reading a journal article written by Allan Savory on how calculated, systematic grazing by livestock could halt the rampant increase of desertification and possibly reverse climate change. (I also managed to find his talk on Ted.com and attached it below)
Two of the most common pre-conceived notions about desertification that the majority of people understand are:
1. The traditional practice of livestock farming is the main contributor of desertification due to overgrazing and excessive stampedes that can prevent grasses or plants to grow, leaving the soil bare.
2. Desertification, resulted from livestock farming, exacerbates climate change due to the high emission of carbon and methane released from animal's manure and decaying grass/plant organic matters.
However, Savory challenged this idea and stated that "the only chance left for humankind to reduce desertification is through livestock grazing". In the past, grazing animals in the wild lived together with ferocious predators. In order for these herbivores to survive, they congregated to form herds where they would then defecate/urinate the land, and keep moving to different places in order to find better grazing spots and avoid predators. These movements subsequently allowed grass to grow, and provided good cover for the soil. Savory then proposed this same concept of mimicking prey-herd relationship to restore deserted land through livestock grazing, where farmers can periodically move their herds from one place to another at different timings.
However, I feel that this idea is overly idealized and is difficult to be achieved taking into account that almost 2/3 of the earth's land is undergoing a rapid rate of desertification. During the discussion, I realized that there is one major difficulty that will be faced when implementing this method.
Due to the rapid increase of the world's population, the demand for food (meat and crops) will inevitably increase as well. In order to supply adequate amount of food, agricultural practice needs to be efficient in utilizing minimal land/resources to supply enough food. Livestock grazing, however, is a traditional agricultural method that is both inefficient and ineffective due to the fact that it requires a relatively large area to provide minimal quantity of meat. In addition, open grazing spot cannot provide a consistent and controlled environment where pests can be minimized, ambient temperature can be stabilized, and food stock can be maintained as in a sheltered/technologically driven meat production facility.
Hence, despite efforts to halt desertification through livestock grazing, we need to take into account its limitation in producing adequate food for the growing global population.
Journal Article taken from:
The Savory Institute: Healing the World’s Grasslands, Rangelands and Savannas". Nourishing the Planet. Worldwatch Institute. Retrieved 29 August 2015
Mayell, Hillary (April 26, 2001). "Shrinking African Lake Offers Lesson on Finite Resources". National Geographic News. Retrieved 29 August 2015
Video taken from: