Complex issues require facts, dialogue and clear thinking.

Posted in: Uncategorized- Jun 28, 2013 No Comments

Slide from presentation made by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith at the Africa Livestock Conference and Exhibition 2013 (credit: ILRI/Jimmy Smith).

The last bastion of unbelievers in climate change may unfortunately reside in the U.S. Congress.   Obama gave a speech this week on climate change without mentioning agriculture. It is known that agriculture plays important role in both producing carbon; for example, via livestock and the use of fertilizer, but also if properly managed can play valuable role in mitigating carbon release.    Healthy, productive soil is one of the best carbon traps known and key to better water management.

There are number of complex and seemingly intractable problems that are interconnected.  Climate change, youth employment, urbanization and growing middle class, rural development, desertification, water management, nutrition, maternal health, stunting, sustainable intensification vs organic vs GMO and the list goes on.  The “intereconnectedness” of these issues is amplified in Africa.  But therein also lies the opportunity to put in place solutions that work together to address the entire litany of problems; from climate change to nutrition, from growing middle class that wants and has a right to eat meat to carbon sequestration in soil, from building regional trade to improving rural income.

One piece of the climate change solution puzzle may be livestock.  Allan Savory of the Savory Institute puts forth idea that through better management of larger herds of livestock we can actually restore dry/grasslands and stop desertification.  It takes time and effort but it also restores healthy soil and provides natural habitat for herder/farmer communities and wildlife.

But the answers to hard problems are not so easy.

The real opportunities in African livestock are outlined to in the June 26 presentation by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who briefed Felix Kosgey, Kenya’s new cabinet secretary for Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, who was guest of honour at the opening of the African Livestock Conference and Exhibition (ALiCE), on key messages delivered during the opening session of the conference.

The very real hurdles in applying solutions such as Allan Savory’s holistic grassland management in the Sabel are described in Mohammed Bello of CORET blog post CONFLICTS BETWEEN TRANSHUMANT PASTORALIST AND FARMERS IN NIGERIA-THE WAY OUT.

How to bridge the ideas of Allan Savory and the opportunities and problems as outline by Jimmy Smith and Mohammed Bello is of interest to me.  I would hope the attendees at the Savory Institute International Conference this week may speak directly to stopping desertification in the Sahel region of Africa.  I’ll be listening and you can too by following the twitter hashtag #savoryconf2013

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