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Grassland of the World

Grassland of the World

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Published by: Daisy on Nov 17, 2008
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Chapter 2
The changing face of pastoral systems in grass-dominated ecosystems of eastern Africa
R.S. Reid, S. Serneels, M. Nyabenge and J. HansonSUMMARY
All eastern Africa is in the tropics, but its grasslands cover a very wide range of altitudes. Extensive grasslands are mostly in arid and semi-arid zones. The area is subject to droughts and a high degree of pastoral risk. Potential vegetation islargely desert and semi-desert, bush and woodland, with only a small area of pure grassland, but the grass-dominated herbaceous layer of the other forma-tions is very important for wildlife and livestock; 75 percent of eastern Africa isdominated by grasslands, often with a varying amount of woody vegetation. Thegrasslands have been grazed by livestock and game for millennia. Eastern Africais a centre of genetic diversity for grasses. Six to eleven main grassland zoneshave been described. Grasslands are either under government control, are openaccess or are common property resources. Access to resources are under nationallaws but frequently traditional land use rights are granted by local communities.National land tenure systems are unrelated to traditional ones. Governments sup-ported cropping and reduction of communal grazing land; contraction of pastoralsystems reduces the scale of resource use by pastoral peoples. The population isvery varied – pastoral groups tend to be of different ethnicities from agricultural oragropastoral groups. Most pastoral systems are in the semi-arid areas, with smallareas in hyper-arid and subhumid zones. Traditionally, livestock and their prod-ucts were for subsistence and wealth, but now many are marketed. Grasslands areincreasingly being integrated into farming as pastoral systems evolve. Sown foragesare widely used in agricultural areas. Cattle, like people, are mostly in the non-pas-toral areas (70 percent), except in countries with little high-potential land. Cattle,camels, sheep, goats and donkeys are the main livestock kept by the pastoralists forsubsistence; most herds are mixed. Indigenous breeds are the majority, althoughexotic cattle are kept for dairying in high altitude zones. Wildlife are widespread inthe grazing lands and are important for tourism. Agricultural development alongwatercourses limits access by wildlife and pastoral stock.
This chapter focuses on the grazing lands or rangelands of Burundi, Eritrea,Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, the Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania) and Uganda (Figure 2.1). These comprise extensive semi-
Grasslands of the world
arid to arid grasslands, savannah, bushlands and woodlands, and also cover thenatural grazing areas of the extensive highland areas of the region. These arealso the pastoral rangelands that Holechek, Pieper and Herbel (1989) defined as“uncultivated land that will support grazing or browsing animals”.Pastoral management systems in eastern Africa have developed overthe last three to four thousand years by the indigenous groups of pastoral
Figure 2.1
Countries in eastern Africa as defined for this chapter.
Libyan ArabJamahiriyaEgyptChadCentral AfricanRepublicDemocratic Republicof the CongoAngolaZambiaMozambique
LakesBounding countriesInternational boundariesRiversCapital cities
The changing face of pastoral systems in grass-dominated ecosystems of eastern Africa
peoples living in the region, whose livelihoods depend on livestock. Thesetraditional and often sustainable ways are now being threatened by agriculturaldevelopment, the need to produce more food from marginal lands, populationgrowth and global climate change. Fluctuations in rainfall and drought arerecurring problems in the rangelands of the region and 70 million people inthe Horn of Africa, many of whom are pastoralists, suffer from long-termchronic food insecurity (FAO, 2000). Poverty levels are high, with more thanhalf of the people in the region surviving on less than US$ 1 per day (Thornton
et al.,
2002). The population of the region has doubled since 1974, and it ispredicted to increase another 40 percent by 2015 (FAO, 2000). Against thisbackground, the traditional ways of pastoralists continue to change, and manyare settling (or are settled) and diversifying their income-generating activitiesinto crop production, wage labour and other activities, while other familymembers continue to herd the family stock and move to follow the availabilityof forage.This chapter examines the changes in pastoral rangeland systems in easternAfrica over recent years and estimates future changes in the rangelands of theregion due to global climate change, human population growth and marketopportunities.
Mapping rangelands, livestock and pastoral peoples
The productive potential of the eastern African region varies enormously fromplace to place, as shown by the differences in the growing season across theregion (Figure 2.2; Fischer, Velthuizen and Nachtergaele
2000). On this map,areas coloured brown and yellow have less than 60 growing days
and thusrarely support crops (= arid, according to White, 1998); areas adequate for short-season crops with 60–120 growing days are shown in light green (= semi-arid);areas with 121–180 days, shaded in medium green, can support longer-seasoncrops (= dry subhumid); and areas with >180 growing days are in dark green,and have few production constraints (= wet subhumid). Over the region, about37 percent of the land surface (or 2.3
) is only agriculturally suitable forgrazing by wildlife and livestock (= arid and semi-arid areas), while the other63 percent (3.9
) is additionally suitable for crop cultivation, forestryand other types of land use. Of these arid and semi-arid areas principally suitablefor grazing, about 1.6
(or about 70 percent of the grazing land) is aridand completely unsuitable for crop production (zero growing days) and thus isprobably only available for grazing during the rare high rainfall years or during a
Growing days are defined as “the period (in days) during the year when precipitation (P)exceeds half the potential evapotranspiration (PET) plus a period required to evapotranspireup to 100 mm of water from excess precipitation assumed stored in the soil profile” (FAO,1978). The mean daily temperature during the growing period has to exceed 5°C (Fischer,Velthuizen and Nachtergaele

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