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Can we Improve Policymaking?

by David

Photo: M. Mahdi

One of our goals, in the POLISES project, is to produce policy-relevant research. Achieving this is not a matter of course; in this blog post, I would like to give two examples of how we try to disseminate insights from our work.

A few months ago, the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security launched an open consultation on a High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) report titled “Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition, including the role of livestock.” Given our interest in this topic, we used the opportunity to emphasize two points that we thought had been missing in the draft: the importance of local knowledge, and the value of extensive pastoralism. More than a hundred contributions in various languages, some going into great depth and detail, were submitted by a broad range of individuals and organizations. A number of them are rather critical of the main arguments and narratives presented in the draft report. We are very curious to see how many of the comments will make it into the final report which is due to be presented next year.

Apart from such direct involvement in political consultations, our academic publications may also contain politically relevant messages. Take Birgit’s article on the supplementary feeding of livestock in times of drought – co-authored by our colleagues Jule, Anja, and Karin as well as myself – that was recently published in Agricultural Systems. This is an abridged version of the abstract:

Providing livestock with supplementary fodder has become a widely used strategy for coping with climate risk in drylands. However, its application is controversial. On the one hand, this form of supplementation allows smallholders to avoid a breakdown in animal numbers in times of drought. On the other hand, keeping herd sizes high may result in rangeland degradation in the long term.

We constructed a stylized ecological–economic simulation model parameterized to a Moroccan case study which incorporates feedbacks between management and vegetation–livestock dynamics. Three supplementation strategies are compared and the impact of socio-economic and climatic change processes is investigated.

Our results show that the conventional supplementation strategy, which supplements in years of forage shortage, reduces livestock asset risk in the short term. However, it can lead to lower pasture productivity and lower yields from pastoralism in the long run. In contrast, a hypothetical strategy which additionally supplements in the year after a drought in order to rest the pasture reduces livestock asset risk and maintains pastures in a better condition without increasing the amount of supplementation.

Feel free to check it out and share your comments.

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