The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has pledged to assist farmers in Matabeleland South Province in managing rangeland degradation, as part of efforts to improve animal nutrition.
Rangeland degradation is a decrease in plant species diversity, vegetation cover and plant productivity.
Speaking during a meeting with some of the farmers in Bulawayo on Friday last week, FAO Zimbabwe International resilience specialist Alexander Carr said rangeland productivity has declined, leading to reduced carrying capacity for livestock.
He said the government could help to create an enabling environment for sustainable rangeland management and ensure that policies and regulations are in place to support rangeland conservation while FAO plays its part of equipping farmers with skills and knowledge to achieve this.
“Rangelands play a crucial role in supporting the livelihoods of pastoral communities, providing grazing land for livestock and a source of income from meat and dairy production hence they should be by utmost priority be preserved,” Carr said.
He added: “Changes in temperature and precipitation patterns have altered the distribution and abundance of plant and animal species, leading to changes in ecosystem dynamics. As a result, rangeland productivity has declined, leading to reduced carrying capacity for livestock and lower yields of meat and dairy products.
“This may include practices such as rotational grazing, improved water management as well as the use of alternative sources of livelihoods to reduce pressure on rangeland resources.”
Speaking at the same event, the permanent secretary for Provincial Affairs and Devolution for Matabeleland South, Latiso Dhlamini-Maseko said restoration of rangeland would help improve livelihoods.
“By restoring degraded rangelands, we can increase their productivity and resilience, improve the livelihoods of pastoral communities, safeguard biodiversity and reduce the risk of land degradation and desertification,” Dhlamini-Maseko said.
She said livestock production, in all its forms, was an integral part of the lives of the majority of the Matabeleland South population as the communal grazing areas are managed by a complex governance system with multiple socioeconomic, political and environmental interests.
“This interaction will seek to create a platform for active engagement, sharing of lessons and harmonising interventions that speak to the national development strategy 1, which promotes sustainable environmental management,” Dhlamini-Maseko said.
According to research the major indicators of rangelands degradation are shift in species composition, loss of range biodiversity, reduction in biomass production, less plant cover, low small ruminant productivity, and soil erosion.