Solution Cluster 3.3.1

Grasslands and savannahs

Restoration of grasslands, shrublands and savannahs through extensive livestock-based food systems

Our idea is to restore and revitalise grasslands, shrublands and savannahs through sustainable extensive livestock-based food systems. With improved data on grasslands, shrublands and savannahs it will be possible to make more informed decisions about them including investments and particularly restoration investment opportunities.  Replication and upscaling of good practice initiatives will be possible through the development and documentation of good practices. Grasslands, shrublands and savannahs will be given greater attention in global strategies and frameworks, such as CBD targets, Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Targets and national determined contributions (NDC) in the Climate agendas.    An International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists will be declared and successfully implemented. Private investors will be more willing to invest in the restoration and management of sustainable grasslands, shrublands and savannahs combined with livestock production that contributes positively to the environment and nature, once understanding of the potential of these investments and the enabling environment for such investments has been improved. 

About this Solution Cluster

Grasslands, shrublands and savannahs provide the resources for extensive livestock-based food systems including pastoralism that feed billions of people around the world. However, they are neglected ecosystems that have received significantly less attention including policy support and investment than other systems such as forests, wetlands and marine. As a result, many grasslands, shrublands and savannahs have degraded, and with impending climate change a significant amount of these areas are going to experience important climate-driven ecosystem tipping points that will further challenge them. Through a multi-stakeholder collaboration, this solution cluster seeks to bring the right attention to grasslands, shrublands and savannahs that is needed to reverse and mitigate these trends, restoring and reviving these lands. Livestock, when well-managed, can play an important role in this restoration and revitalisation, whilst also producing food and other products. Though good examples of this exist, there are often significant governance challenges as well as a need to improve the evidence base to foster greater investment in larger-scale restoration through sustainable extensive livestock-based food systems.

All Member States are under pressure to reduce their carbon footprint and biodiversity loss including extensive livestock-based systems. How to do this whilst also maintaining the millions of livelihoods that rely on these systems, whilst also continuing to produce food and products from these marginal lands, with variable productivity areas, is a challenge for all.  This solution of restoring grasslands, shrublands and savannahs including their carbon storage and sequestering capacity will help to reduce such carbon footprints whilst also increasing food security, environmental and biodiversity benefits. It is strongly believed that all Member States will support this. Examples are the Government of Mongolia leading the call for the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (including written support from governments of Ethiopia,  Australia, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Finland, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan), the members states attending a recently held discussion on UNCCD targets organised IUCN and WWF, and the Governments of Sudan, Namibia and Ethiopia who lead the UNEA Resolution on “Combating desertification and land degradation and ensuring the sustainable management of  rangelands” (UNEP/EA2/L24). 

Further, this game-changing solution makes sense: when functioning well and efficiently extensive livestock-based systems are cost-effective, culturally appropriate, have value-added potential for non-food products such as wool,  cashmere, and leather, and tourism providing alternative incomes whilst also better contributing to biodiversity, payments for ecosystem services, nature and a healthy environment. As such investments in extensive livestock production rather than intensive is a win-win-win for people, livestock and the environment. Livestock, when managed properly for ecological outcomes including planned grazing, can play a vital role in mitigating climate change by stimulating grassland plants to sequester carbon in soil,[1]As detailed in Soil4Climate’s grazing research compendium “Hope Below Our Feet,” properly-managed grazing has been found to sequester carbon in soil at the following levels: 1.2 tC/ac/yr (Teague 2016), 1.5 tC/ac/yr (Stanley 2018) and 0.93 tC/ac/yr (Rowntree 2020). Teague (2016) suggests the drawdown potential for AMP grazing in North America is 0.79 GtC/yr. as well as increase nitrogen stocks,[2]Mosier et al 2021 soil moisture, and fine litter cover,[3]Dowhower, S. L. 2020 and forage biomass.[4]Hillenbrand, M., 2019

Action will be delivered through the following solutions:

  • Strengthening a multi-stakeholder platform on grasslands, shrublands and savannahs building on existing networks to raise awareness on their value, and advocate for their protection, sustainable use and restoration including through livestock-based food systems.
  • The development of a global data platform on grasslands, shrublands and savannahs including consolidation of global data sets already existing and the collection of new data to improve these and create new ones. Facilities for monitoring including remote sensing of land changes and crowd-sourcing of data will be included. Restoration potentials of rangelands will also be identified.
  • Development and documentation of good practices in sustainable management and the restoration of grasslands, shrublands and savannahs through extensive nature-positive livestock production/food systems. 
  • Awareness raising at global, national and local levels of the value of extensive livestock production/food systems and their role (actual and potential) in protecting and restoring grasslands, shrublands and savannahs.  Including  grasslands, shrublands and savannahs in the new CBD targets, strengthen in the LDN targets under UNCCD and  integrate in the national determined contribution under the Paris Agreements as well as bringing these ecosystems in the focus of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,   and the declaration of an International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists.
  • Improving investments and entrepreneurial opportunities for restoration of grasslands, shrublands and savannahs including public, commercial and private finance and improvements in the enabling environment through national and global dialogues to ensure sustainability. 
  • Increasing awareness of consumers worldwide about the  environmental value of livestock products and value chains originating from extensive livestock farming and the sustainable management of grasslands, shrublands and savannahs.
  • What efforts are already underway?

Further there is significant support for this solution globally amongst multiple stakeholders expressed in the global support given to the International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists (with over 50 international and local organisations supporting) and the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration in which Grasslands, Shrublands and Savannahs have been identified as one of the six ecosystems requiring specific and urgent attention. These ecosystems will also be receiving attention in the upcoming Rio Convention COPs. Further this solution cluster will serve to strengthen the WWF-led multi-stakeholder global Platform on Grasslands and Savannahs, as well as contribute to developing the global Rangelands Data Platform and the recently launched global Rangelands Atlas and the Atlas on Pastoral Peoples


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