When livestock are good for the environment:
benefit- sharing of environmental goods and services

By Robin Mearns
Fellow of the Institute of Development Studies and a founder member of the IDS Environment Group.






Pastures in the spring - Kyrgyzstan (Asia) - 2003 © Mauricio Roslaes, LEADLivestock producers are coming in for increasing criticism world- wide on the grounds that livestock production is bad for the environment. Mention ' cattle' and ' developing countries' in the same breath, and many will immediately think of overgrazing, desertification, and deforestation. But the environmental consequences of livestock production vary widely, depending on the opportunities and constraints afforded by different production systems, institutional and policy contexts. Focusing principally on pastoral grazing systems and integrated crop- livestock systems, this paper examines the less widely documented case that there are also positive environmental externalities associated with livestock production. Livestock production can play an instrumental role, for example, in supporting sustainable rangeland management, preserving wildlife and other forms of biodiversity, enhancing soil fertility and nutrient cycling, and in directly promoting the amenity value of particular landscapes to other users.

The environments in which most pastoral grazing systems and integrated crop- livestock systems are to be found are characterised by multiple uses and multiple users, all with legitimate claims on environmental goods and services, but not all of which can be compatible all of the time. The paper addresses ways of enhancing, through policy instruments, the sharing of environmental benefits between multiple users of the environment including livestock producers. It argues that the task of policy makers should be to expose these multiple, contested claims on theenvironment, to make explicit the political choices involved in the design of benefit- sharing mechanisms, and to seek out those that offer most promise of ' win- win' or at least ' win- no regret' solutions.

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