This document presents an approach to integrated pastoral resource assessment that has been used for more than a decade in international development projects dealing with grazing management and the environment; it reflects the need for a more complete and realistic understanding of grassland-based livestock production systems, their limitations and dynamics. The main objectives of integrated land, forage and livestock resource assessments are to quantify resource endowment, understand interrelationships between resource components, predict environmental impact, estimate livestock support capacity, and evaluate development options. The procedures - including data collection, compilation, analysis and results presentation - are designed to represent pastoral systems accurately. Integrated procedures, based upon modelling, ensure that assessments of development options relating to land, forage, grassland and livestock are realistically analysed from the viewpoint of the individual components, as well as from a whole-system, or holistic, perspective.
Traditional pastoral resource assessments do not account for the complex, interrelated nature of land, forage and livestock. A simple "DM balance" ignores seasonality, qualitative differences between forages, differences in livestock requirements due to growth and physiological state, and the effect of forage carryover loss. Modelling overcomes the limitations of traditional methods, greatly improves the understanding of complex pastoral systems, and makes possible fast, repetitive analyses spanning time, incorporating variability and representing more realistically complex interactions within the system.
RAPS (Resource Assessment for Pastoral Systems) is a computer-based model designed specifically for use in pastoral development programmes. It aids managerial, policy and development decisions, primarily by analysing land and forage resources for their productivity and livestock support capacity; its development began in the mid-1980s and since then has been enhanced and tested in a wide range of environments and countries as a pastoral resource assessment tool in environments ranging from humid mountains to arid deserts. Sheep, goats, cattle, horses, camels and yaks are among the livestock types analysed; RAPS is suitable for assessing individual properties, for local and regional development projects and for land use planning.
The issues, components and methods described in the initial chapters are not limits to, but the basis of, or framework for, an assessment. The complete range and detail of information will rarely be available for a particular project; the scope and detail of information is presented as a compendium of resource parameters, options and indicators to assist the analysis of grassland systems and the evaluation of development options.
A "universal" methodology or prescribed procedure for analysing grassland-based pastoral resources is not practicable because, while there are general similarities between grassland-based systems, each has its own unique characteristics and resources, which include environmental features, social and cultural factors, and markets and political structures.
Resource analyses should not be static, one-off procedures but part of an ongoing programme. Initial databases and analyses provide important benchmarks and interpretations of pastoral systems, but should not be considered final or conclusive. As further data from sources such as grassland resource monitoring programmes become available, and land use databases are updated from ongoing remote-sensing programmes, the pastoral resources can be remodelled, and previous conclusions reviewed and refined. Databases representing a sequence of years facilitate monitoring of trends in the status of forage resources and their livestock support capacity. This provides an early warning of any negative trends and facilitates more timely and economic implementation of mitigation measures.
The case studies emphasize the heterogeneity of pastoral environments and how the approaches used were modified in consequence. The differences between studies reflect the local environment, social and cultural factors, and prevailing markets and political systems. Each assessment emphasized a distinct combination of resource components and identified a different mix of practicable development opportunities.
Despite the heterogeneity, all case studies involved the following activities:
- a critical review of project component terms of reference;
- formulating a realistic and practicable work plan;
- interviewing herders and farmers to ascertain their opinions and requirements, and to obtain local knowledge of the pastoral system;
- collecting baseline resource data and evidence for relevant development opportunities;
- the integrated analysis of the resources, based upon modelling;
- assessment of development possibilities and the formulation of, at least, provisional plans for implementing a development programme; and
- confirmation of resource interpretations by incorporating as many convergent resource and development indicators as possible.
The case studies show the development and use of the RAPS model over time. The Bhutan case study was a survey of mid- and high-altitude grazing lands. A review of the Terms of Reference was required because the work proposed was too large for the time and resources available. Down-scaling and focus upon specific representative areas ensured that the results were of sufficient quality to identify and address pastoral resource issues. Livestock support capacity was analysed using a forerunner of the RAPS model to identify periods of forage surpluses and deficits, and predict the impact of development options. The analyses of grazing management used simple indices of stocking load. Standardized livestock units, yak-equivalents, were calculated. The grassland survey used the height/frequency technique developed in New Zealand during the 1960s; its benefits were clearly demonstrated.
The Ethiopian study contrasted with the Bhutanese one. It was part of a major, ongoing land use planning project, so the forage and livestock development components were based upon and integrated with comprehensive data sets that were already available. Extensive field surveys and interviews provided data of the detail required. The results were presented graphically, using an in-house Geographical Information System (GIS) to present information on stocking loads, grazing pressures and vegetation types. The land use planning unit, the planning zone, was used as the basic unit for the pastoral analysis. The patterns of livestock management within both provinces focused on the use of croplands and the grazing lands in their vicinity. All the seasonal grazing lands were within the study areas. The analyses focused upon identifying levels of livestock feeding relative to that considered optimal, quantifying levels of under-feeding and identifying seasonal patterns of forage balance. This facilitated the estimation of the scale of development programmes required to avoid regular forage deficits.
The analysis of pastoral resources associated with forests in Sudan contrasts with the other case studies because it did not analyse a complete pastoral system; rather, it focused on the pastoral resources associated with forests and how they were used during the movement of livestock between the "external" wet and dry season grazing lands. The analyses were confounded because the timing and extent of the movements were highly variable and the result of complex management decisions. Convergent subjective indicators to identify the occurrence and pattern of forage resource limitations are a useful adjunct to objective data. In the Sudan, interviews with nomads defined patterns of forage shortages, supplementary feeding, crop residue use, poor livestock condition and livestock deaths.
The Gansu pastoral resource analysis represents the culmination of the modelling and analysis procedures that evolved with increased sophistication from the techniques used in Bhutan. The land resource information was also the most complex, with over a thousand land units or forage sources described in the databases and simultaneously analysed. Pastoral system dynamics were assessed with a greater level of sophistication; the RAPS modelling was linked to a grassland resource monitoring programme and a GIS; the monitoring programme was used to help set up and calibrate provisional land and forage databases and provide a bench-mark for monitoring long-term trends within the project county. The GIS provided the primary land use data used in the compilation of the databases, and was used to display the results spatially. A two-way linkage was set up between the model and the GIS, so data on the forage resources, livestock production, and land type and use were used directly by both the RAPS model and the GIS.