Sustainability Pathways

Holistic management of land and livestock, Zimbabwe, 2001 - 2009

Name of sustainable practice or practices Holistic management of land and livestock, Zimbabwe, 2001 - 2009
Name of main actor Africa Centre for Holistic Management, Savory Institute
Type of actors involved Smallholder livestock keepers, Nature conservation groups
Livestock Species Cattle, Goat, Sheep
Country Zimbabwe
Agro-ecological region Tropical and Sub-tropical
Main feature of best practice Improving environmental sustainability including biodiversity conservation
Key features of livestock farming system Holistic livestock management
Year practice/management strategies started to be implemented 2001
Key practices implemented to improve sustainability of livestock management Land management using Holistic Planned Grazing: Livestock are used for land restoration by harnessing the power of their hooves to break up hard ground so that air and water can penetrate. Old grass is trampled down and the soil covered making it less prone to the drying effects of sun and wind. Their dung and urine help fertilize the hoof-prepared soil, and their grazing (which is timed to prevent overgrazing and allow adequate time for plants to recover) keeps perennial grasses healthy, greatly minimizing the need to burn and expose soil.
Key impacts of the best practices on sustainability of farming system The overall findings between 2001 and 2009, on all 9 of Dimangombe’s transect sites were as follows: • A 31% decrease in bare ground and 56% increase in litter cover meaning less surface loss of rainfall and less subsequent surface evaporation. • A 12% increase in perennial grass plants reflecting increased above-ground mass production over a long time period. Livestock and wildlife are therefore able to share forage and have forage reserves for sparse rainy seasons. • A 21% decrease in less desirable annual grasses which can be a reflection of increase in perennial grasses, but also a seasonal difference. • A 17% decrease in soil movement resulting in less silt accumulation in the river. The Dimbangombe River is running longer into the dry season in average rainfall years and has more perennial pools now than in the 1970s. • Between 2007-2009 groups of livestock owners in 3 pilot communities initiated planned grazing in the growing season and produced 3.7 times the forage on average as grown on control areas (where non-participating livestock owners still allowed animals to wander). And cropfields “impacted” by livestock under planned grazing in the non-growing season yielded 4.4 times the maize as control fields beside them.
Constraints and opportunities observed during implementation of described practices The community monitoring transects outside the Dimbangombe learning site showed no improvement in watershed health between 2006-2009, due to the fact that throughout the growing season too few animals were kept in a single herd and thus control of the grazing plan was lost (animals allowed to wander on their own will overgraze plants, greatly reducing forage production and increasing bare ground). Until ACHM is able to effectively mobilize the livestock owners in each community to combine their animals into a herd and follow the grazing plan they help create, water security is not likely to improve in the short- or long-term. A further problem is that it is difficult to retain herders and community-based trainers if they do not receive payment in some form.
Andrea Malmberg, email: [email protected]; and Jody Butterfield, email: [email protected]