Nomads leave a light carbon footprint

From the Kalahari desert to Mongolia, the world’s estimated 200 million nomads are losing land to farmers and ranchers.

Nomadic herders like the Maasai in east Africa make better use of the land than their farming cousins says the World Conservation Union.

Maasai pastoral lifestyle helps to combat climate change. Pastoralism usually makes the best use of natural resources, especially where water shortages mean that the best strategy is to follow the rains.

Grazing animals do not cause desertification because grazing by the nomad’s animals often increases biodiversity and the dung fertilizes the soil.

Pasturelands hold carbon in their soils. By comparison, ploughing grassland can release more carbon than felling a forest.

(“Upfront”, “Nomads tread lightly”, New Scientist No 2591, 17 February 2007, p4)