Smart strategy, finance crucial to grassland management

Between 1940 and 2009, there has been a rise of 2.1 degree temperature in the grasslands of Mongolia, which is higher than the global average of temperature rise. Damdin Dagvadorj, special envoy of Mongolia on climate change today shared this information at a side event within the ongoing 18th session of the United Nations Framework to Combat Climate Change (COP18) in Doha today.Stella Paul

The affect of the high temperature has been wide and severe on the local pastoral communities who have experienced both land degradation and loss of livestock, said Dagvadorj. However, despite the alarming scenario, it was still possible to make a turn around and improve the condition of life and land. However, for that, it would be important to take action in two key areas: sustainable livestock management and soil carbon sequestration.
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‘Livestock is an important source of pastoral agriculture and therefore, when we talk of adaptation in agriculture in grassland, we must also talk of livestock,’ said ML Tapio Bistrom – livestock expert from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

In this regard, Christine Zundel, ecology expert from Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Sweden, informed that in January 2013, Global Agenda on Action for Sustainable management of livestock will be launched.The agenda, once launched, is expected to include livestock management into the global talk on climate adaptation.

However, grassland is also important for carbon mitigation. The reason is, there is a huge soil carbon sequestration potential in grassland which amounts to 3,944,694 t/c per year, said a number of experts who took part in a discussion during the side event. If utilized, this could be a good opportunity to mitigate the global co2 emission. On the other hand, loss of grassland could also lead the world to huge loss of carbon stock and its spillage into the atmosphere and further add to the current rise in the co2 level.

Despite the cautionary words, however, the experts were also hopeful that there were great methods of adaptation already existing on the ground.

Mathew Chana of Natural Capital – a civil society organization in Kenya, shared some interesting techniques on mitigation, adaptation and building resilience in dryland ecosystems. One of them was adopting shifting grazing method. Under this method, overgrazing – which causes land degradation, is avoided by moving the herd to newer fields. Once the herd has left a field, it must not return there for 2-9 months. This allows the leaves and the roots of the new grass to grow.
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However, availability of finance would be crucial for both carbon sequestration and treatment of degraded land. According to Rich Conant of FAO, the cost would grow with increased efforts. For value added activities like creating water holes in grassland, the estimated cost was 6-8 USD per ton of CO2.

But so far at COP18, only one country (UK) has pledged a specific amount of money -133 million pound sterling yet to help developing and least developed countries adapt to climate change. Unless other developed countries follow the suit, the danger of land degradation and loss of pastoral grassland is likely to remain unchanged.

Stella Paul is blogging from COP18

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