The rangelands of the arid/semi-arid areas: Challenges and hopes for the 2000s

By Ahmed E. Sidahmed
ODI-Pastoral Development Network ; Livestock: Coping with Drought


Sparsely vegetated rangeland is easily damaged (Lesotho).©FAO- M. Stapleton

Do we need to worry about the rangelands in the arid and semi-arid areas? Is there hope for these resources in the year 2000 and beyond? Is it valid to assume that the world's marginal rangelands will survive the extraordinary pressures which started around the mid-1950s as a result of the sharp increase in human population density? What can modern technologies bring to these areas, other than disaster and over-use? Nowadays, domestic animals are trucked to the remotest corners of the earth and plants that used to flourish under very irregular and scanty rain hardly get a chance to germinate. The seed banks are depleting rapidly, and the seasonally-rich grazing areas are turning irreversibly into barren lands. These are the cries of the times, and the agonies of the helpless. However, nature has its own defense mechanisms and strategies which it has maintained throughout the history of our planet.

This paper explores the fore-mentioned issues from a historic and statistical perspective. Issues relating to the validity and long-term sustainability of approaches to monitor and manage the extensive rangelands in a changing world are substantiated and discussed. Attention is also given to the socio-economic and technical relevance of high tech and conventional approaches towards understanding the dynamics of vegetation and livestock, the consumption habits of graziers, and the market forces. Consideration is given to the balance between natural and man-made defenses and strategies and responsibilities at national and regional (e.g., GCC) levels are explored, proposed and/or recommended.

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