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Human Population Growth, African Pastoralism, and Rangelands: A Perspective☆

Holechek, Jerry L., Cibils, Andres F., Bengaly, Konimba, Kinyamario, Jenesio I.
Rangeland ecology & management 2017 v.70 no.3 pp. 273-280
animals, cities, demographic statistics, development projects, environmental factors, family planning, farmers, global warming, globalization, grazing, grazing lands, health services, human population, legal rights, livestock production, markets, meat, milk, milk production, pastoralism, population growth, production technology, rangelands, renewable energy sources, rural areas, schools, shrinkage, soil, water resources, wildlife management, women, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria
Pastoral livestock production systems in Africa that have existed for centuries are now threatened by changing demographics, improved communications, increased availability of modern weapons, open rangeland shrinkage, global warming, and large-scale migration of people from rural areas to rapidly expanding cities. Human population increase coupled with globalization has led to major conflicts over natural resources in several African countries. If current growth rates persist, the population of Africa will double in 33 yr. Land resources available for farming are now fully used in several African countries. There is growing concern about the capability of these countries to feed their future projected populations. Africa's three most populous countries (Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Egypt) are all net food importers. Demand for meat and milk in Africa is projected to double by 2050. Roughly one-half of Africa can be classified as rangeland. Some form of pastoral grazing is the most efficient way to use most of these lands and sustain traditional cultures. Because most African rangelands are now stocked at or above grazing capacity, there is little potential to increase livestock production by increasing animal numbers. However, because offtake levels across Africa are much lower than in other parts of the world, considerable potential exists to increase meat and milk production. Local development projects oriented toward keeping people on the land and self-sufficiency have considerable potential to improve living and environmental conditions for small farmers and pastoralists. Improved and equal education opportunities for both genders, family planning assistance, renewable energy development, empowerment of women, improvement of soil and water resources, and wildlife conservation should be areas of development focus. Maintaining migration corridors, providing legal rights to historic grazing lands, and providing support services along migration corridors such as watering points, markets, schools, and health care are important strategies to sustain pastoralism.