Nomadic Pastoralism: Importance and Distribution

  1. Livestock is the fastest growing agricultural sector, and in some countries accounts for 80% of GDP.[1]
  2. Grasslands – the basis for livestock production – cover ~70% of the global agricultural area.[2]
  3. More of the land surface of the earth is used for grazing than for any other purposes.[3]
  4. Pastoralism produces 10% of the world’s meat, and supports some 200 million pastoral households who raise nearly 1 billion head of camel, cattle and smaller livestock.[4]
  5. >1 billion people depend on livestock, and 70% of the 880 million rural poor living on less than USD 1 per day are at least partially dependent on livestock.[5]

The land where most herding peoples and livestock make a living are characterized as open grazing lands, including savannahs; grassland; prairies; steppe and shrub lands[6].

Extensive pastoral production occurs in 25% of the global land area from the dry lands of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, to the highlands of Asia and Latin America and the Arctic parts of Fennoscandia and Russia[7].

Areas of extensive, moderately intensive and intensive pasture systems throughout the world. Source: Neely, C., Bunning, S., and Wilkes, A. (2009). Review of evidence on drylands pastoral systems and climate change - Implications and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. Land and Water Discussion Paper. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Areas of extensive, moderately intensive and intensive pasture systems throughout the
world. Source: Figure 1, page 2 in Neely, C., Bunning, S., and Wilkes, A. (2009). Review of evidence on drylands pastoral systems and climate change – Implications and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. Land and Water Discussion Paper. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

Specifically, grazing land covers 77% of Australia, 61% of Africa, 49% of Asia and 18% of Europe[8].

“These grazing lands cover 61.2 million km2 or 45% of the earth’s surface (excluding Antarctica), 1.5 times more of the globe than forests, 2.8 times more than cropland and 17 times more than urban settlement” [9]

Pastoralists are estimated to produce 10% of the world’s meat, supporting some 200 million pastoral households who raise nearly 1 billion head of camel, cattle and smaller livestock[10].

The main livestock species kept by pastoralists are cattle, donkeys, goats and sheep, although they also keep, e.g., alpaca and llamas in the Andes, camels and horses in east-central Asia, the dromedary in Africa and West Asia, reindeer in northern Eurasia, and yak on the Tibetan Plateau[11].

Pastoral people are ethnically diverse, for example in eastern Africa alone more than 70 different linguistic/cultural groups have been observed. [12]

“Even though extensive grazing lands [<20 people/km2] support only 3% of the world’s people, they keep 35% of the world’s sheep, 23% of the goats, and 16% of the cattle and water buffalo” [13]

Compared to settled farmers in Africa, pastoralists produce 50-70% of all the milk, beef and mutton produced on the continent[14]. In addition, in Iran, while comprising only 1.5% of the total population, pastoralists keep 25% of the national herd[15].

Notes



[1] Neely, C., Bunning, S., and Wilkes, A. (2009). Review of evidence on drylands pastoral systems and climate change – Implications and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. Land and Water Discussion Paper. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Reid, R. S., Galvin, K. A., and Kruska, R. S. (2008). Global Significance of Extensive Grazing Lands and Pastoral Societies: An Introduction. In K. A. Galvin, R. S. Reid, J. R. H. Behnke, and N. T. Hobbs (eds.), Fragmentation in semi-arid and arid landscapes: consequences for human and natural systems, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 1-24.

[4] Nori, M., Taylor, M., and Sensi, A. (2008). Browsing on fences: Pastoral land rights, livelihoods and adaptation to climate change. Issue paper. International Institute for Environment and Development Nottingham, UK, pp. 29.

[5] Neely, C., Bunning, S., and Wilkes, A. (2009). Review of evidence on drylands pastoral systems and climate change – Implications and opportunities for mitigation and adaptation. Land and Water Discussion Paper. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome.

[6] Nori, M., Taylor, M., and Sensi, A. (2008). Browsing on fences: Pastoral land rights, livelihoods and adaptation to climate change. Issue paper. International Institute for Environment and Development Nottingham, UK, pp. 29.

[7] ibid.

[8] Reid, R. S., Galvin, K. A., and Kruska, R. S. (2008). Global Significance of Extensive Grazing Lands and Pastoral Societies: An Introduction. In K. A. Galvin, R. S. Reid, J. R. H. Behnke, and N. T. Hobbs (eds.), Fragmentation in semi-arid and arid landscapes: consequences for human and natural systems, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 1-24.

[9] ibid.

[10] Nori, M., Taylor, M., and Sensi, A. (2008). Browsing on fences: Pastoral land rights, livelihoods and adaptation to climate change. Issue paper. International Institute for Environment and Development Nottingham, UK, pp. 29.

[11] Reid, R. S., Galvin, K. A., and Kruska, R. S. (2008). Global Significance of Extensive Grazing Lands and Pastoral Societies: An Introduction. In K. A. Galvin, R. S. Reid, J. R. H. Behnke, and N. T. Hobbs (eds.), Fragmentation in semi-arid and arid landscapes: consequences for human and natural systems, Springer, Dordrecht, pp. 1-24.

[12] ibid.

[13] ibid.

[14] ibid.

[15] ibid.

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2 Responses to Nomadic Pastoralism: Importance and Distribution

  1. Pingback: New research paper about cooperation in groups of Saami reindeer herders | The Tangled Woof of Fact

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