Dryland Forestry

Latest FAO technical report on drylands livestock moves closer to publication


FAO’s technical report on silvopastoralism moved another step towards its launch this week, after the advisory committee held their third meeting to finalize key findings and recommendations. 

The technical paper, entitled “Grazing with trees”, focuses on the role of livestock in restoring and managing drylands, forests and silvopastoral systems, following the Agroforestry Pathways for Green Recovery highlighted in the State of the World Forests 2022 report. The technical paper is expected to be launched in the upcoming Committee on Forestry 26 (COFO).

Livestock in dryland areas

The dominant land uses in drylands are rangelands of which 31 percent is grasses and 8 percent other woody vegetation, shrubs, scattered trees and barren lands. However, forests are key natural resources in drylands, accounting for 27 percent of the world’s forest area that are concentrated in sub-humid and semi-arid lands. Livestock breeding is a widespread and important activity in drylands silvopastoral systems and is one of the main socioeconomic activities for rural livelihoods in these areas. Rainfed agriculture is restricted in drylands since crops struggle to grow, while timber production is slow and focused in the long-term. This leaves grazing-based livestock husbandry as one of the only reliable livelihoods. Currently, however, there are no specific censuses of the livestock thriving in these lands, and accurate grazing livestock data has proven elusive to extract in both drylands and other areas. Some estimates believe that drylands may even raise half of the world's livestock. The “Grazing with Trees” paper seeks to shed further light on this area.

The third meeting  of the Advisory Committee reviewed the assessment’s progress, including next steps,  a roadmap of the contributions from the advisory committee and an extensive progress report on the case studies and evidence collected for the paper. The meeting also reviewed and categorized the key recommendations of the three themes addressed in the paper on the role of livestock to restore dryland forests: production, economics, food security and livelihoods; ecosystem health and preventing land degradation; and resilience and adaptation to climate change, including a need for a good governance framework of drylands’ silvopastures.

Improving the role of silvopastoralism

The expert discussion came up with a theory of change to improve the role of silvopastoralism in drylands to reduce the stress on forests through integrated land use planning and management thus to contribute to the recent Land Legacy Declaration. They also commented on the interaction between the different recommendations: strengthening the resilience of supply chains by promoting alternative value chains for silvopastoral products; mobilizing seed investments through agroforestry approach to support silvopastoral initiatives; and improving knowledge of silvopastoral systems around the world. 

At the heart of the proposed theory based on the collected evidence is the prioritization of the local community engagement to improve the governance of drylands. The committee advocated for an improved framework  to promote silvopastoralism as a key agroforestry approach to avoid further degradation on dryland forests and trees outside the forest. The Advisory Committee pointed to three main lines: the first one about ruling, rights and legal framework, the second addressing knowledge to improve research and evidence-based community action for sustainable forest and rangeland  management and the third building capacity for good governance systems.

The meeting served to refine the recommendations of the technical paper, taking it one step closer to provide evidence on how to enhance the means of  silvopastoralism field implementation in restoring forests at scale.