Grazing lands in Sub-Saharan Africa and their potential role in climate change mitigation: What we do and don’t know

TitleGrazing lands in Sub-Saharan Africa and their potential role in climate change mitigation: What we do and don’t know
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMilne E, Aynekulu E., Bationo A., Batjes NH, Boone R.D, Conant R., Davis J., Hanan N, Hoag D., Herrick JE, Knausenberger W., Neely C., Njoka J., Ngugi M., Parton B., Paustian K., Reid R., Said M., Shephers K., Swift D., Thornton P., Williams S.
JournalEnvironmental Development
Date Published07/2016
ARIS Log Number330320
Grazinglands cover much of sub-Saharan Africa. When well-managed, these lands provide a wide variety of ecosystem services, many of which are positively correlated with increase in soil carbon. Pastoralists and other land managers are currently rewarded primarily for the production of animal products. This paper reviews the current literature and related knowledge on carbon sequestration in sub-Saharan grazinglands as the basis for six sets of recommendations. 1. C sequestration for climate change mitigation should be treated as a co-benefit rather than the target of a project/activity. 2.  Paying people to maintain C stocks by persisting with existing good practices is likely to be easier than introducing new practices to increase stocks, although problems of paying multiple smallholders would remain. 3.  Projects should be developed with strong input from the communities living in the areas (bottom up) where the project is to occur so that they have a sense of ownership and are then more likely to cooperate in its implementation. 4. When resources are limited, the focus should be on areas where the co-benefits of C sequestration and livelihood improvement are highest and this may be in moderately rather than severely degraded areas. Interventions should consider net livelihoods of local populations as a key metric of success of programs that are aiming to improve rangeland health and C sequestration. 5. Weak evidence of the impact of rangeland management approaches in enhancing C sequestration in non-equilibrial (erratic and changing) systems makes it  more difficult to detect management responses and therefore justify management actions. However, carefuly analysis is required since the long-term costs of neglecting these systems may be higher in some cases due to the difficulty of restoration where biophysical thresholds have been crossed. 6. From a purely biophysical C sequestration point of view, investment should be in areas where mineralization rates are low (cold, moist) or input rates are high (warm, wet). In areas where C sequestration rates are likely to be lower (arid, semi-arid) but cover extensive land areas, projects should include C sequestration as part of a package of multiple benefits in which practices that sequester C in grasslands enhance productivity, improve livelihoods, increase biodiversity and benefit multiple ecosystem services.