Beefing up sustainable cattle-ranching is a bargain for Bolivia and its birds

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Best practices to optimize the use of grasslands for beef production suit perfectly the objectives of conservationists too. That’s how profit and sustainability go hand in hand.(Photo:M.H)

Sustainability and profit should go hand in hand when it comes to the conservation of the endemic, Critically Endangered Blue-throated Macaw, the protection of key grasslands for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and numerous species of the tropical savannas of Beni, Bolivia. To prove that sustainable beef production could be a winning formula both for local cattlemen and the fragile ecosystem – Armonía brought together ranchers, local stakeholders, and international conservation experts at the 1st Conference of Sustainable Cattle-ranching of the Bolivian Lowlands.

The grasslands of Barba Azul Nature Reserve is a key stop-over habitat the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. (Photo: Daniel Alarcón)

 

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The 1st Conference of Sustainable Cattle ranching of the Bolivian Lowlands set a precedent by bringing together ranchers and conservation experts. (Photo: M.H)

Cattle ranching in the Beni – the driving force of the local economy – is considered to be a menace to biodiversity. Tomorrow, sustainable ranching might well be the mightiest of means to preserve those very same savannas.

Armonía’s conservation program coordinators Gustavo Sánchez Ávila and Tjalle Boorsma both agree that sustainable livestock management is economically viable, and can generate sufficient income to the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, as well as to other ranchers of Beni.

“Bringing together stakeholders of the local economy with conservationists, academic staff and students is the first step towards sustainable, long-term solutions.”

– pointed out Gustavo Ávila Sánchez, coordinator of Armonía’s conservation program for the Blue-throated Macaw, advocate for best cattle-ranching practices in the region.

Organized by Armonía, and hosted by the Universidad Autónoma del Beni José Ballivián (UAB) and cattlemen association FEGABENI (Federación de Ganaderos del Beni y Pando)  – the 1st Conference of Sustainable Cattle ranching of the Bolivian Lowlands set a precedent by bringing together ranchers and conservation experts from Argentina, Bolivia, México and Paraguay to debate how cattle-ranching can be turned into a sustainable cash-cow.

“Best practices to optimize the use of grasslands for beef production suit perfectly the objectives of conservationists too. That’s how profit and sustainability go hand in hand.”

– explained Gustavo D. Marino, representative of Aves Argentinas and the Argentinian coordinator for the Southern Cone Grasslands Alliance in his speech at UAB. Marino also made clear, that the involvement of cattlemen is crucial when it comes to the design and implementation of sustainable environmental and farming policies.

Coordinator for the Mexican Pronatura Noreste’s sustainable cattle-ranching program, Iris Banda shared experiences from México, where a growing number of ranchers realized that wildlife and livestock will both benefit form environmental best practices.

Iris BandaCoordinator for the Mexican Pronatura Noreste’s sustainable cattle-ranching program

Iris BandaCoordinator for the Mexican Pronatura Noreste’s sustainable cattle-ranching program (Photo: M.H)

„Our main achievement was to change a paradigm. Today our ranchers have realized that sustainably managed grasslands translate into better fodder availability, higher average body weight of livestock, therefore lower production costs and more profit, with minimal environmental impact.”

– said Iris Banda,  who arrived in Bolivia accompanied by Ivonne Borunda, a Mexican cattle rancher, who adopted those best practices and was ready to share her experiences with her local colleagues.

„Optimal use of fodder, during the shortest period of time, followed by the longest possible recuperation of the pasture is essential to ensure healthy grassland, and livestock.”

– summarized Alberto Rautenberg, Paraguayan rancher, and adviser of the Paraguayan government for cattle ranching affairs, who insisted that eco-friendly beef production indeed has prosperous perspectives in Paraguay. Cattle-ranching good practices such as the use of natural antiparasitics, measures to reduce animal stress in order optimize veterinary costs, and correctly managed pastures are probably the only way to ensure the sustainable growth of rural communities and the conservation of South American grassland habitats.

Funded by the Latin American Reserve Stepwarship Initiative of the American Bird ConservancyMarch Conservation Fund, and the Loro Parque Fundación, the 1st Conference of Sustainable Cattle-ranching of the Bolivian Lowlands was a major step in making cattle operations an environmentally friendly industry in the Beni, as well as a key factor for the conservation and self-sufficiency of protected areas as the Barba Azul Nature Reserve,.

“The main objective of LARSI is to support our partners in their conservation efforts of endangered species and their habitat by implementing long-term operative protocols for economic self-sufficiency.”

–  explained Wendy Willis, ABC’s international conservation officer for Latin America and the Caribbean.

F.L.T.R: Rodrigo Soria-Auza (Armonía Director), Gustavo D. Marino (Aves Argentina - coord. Alianza del Pastizal for Argentina), Iris Banda (Pronatura Noreste - Mexico), Wendy Willis (ABC representative), Ivonne Borunda Carrillo (rancher Chihuahua, México) and Alberto Rautenberg (rancher,Alianza del Pastizal, Paraguay) at Barba Azul Nature Reserve observing the gathering of Blue-throated Macaws at Isla Barba Azul.

F.L.T.R: Rodrigo Soria-Auza, Gustavo D. Marino, Iris Banda, Wendy Willis, Ivonne Borunda Carrillo and Alberto Rautenberg at Barba Azul Nature Reserve observing the gathering of Blue-throated Macaws at Isla Barba Azul.(Photo M.H)

In order to reach economic independence and to finance the protection and conservation activities at Barba Azul Nature Reserve, a sustainable eco-friendly cattle ranching model will be implemented at Barba Azul East (14,827 acres) from where ecologically friendly beef will be produced that goes hand in hand with habitat and species conservation.

„Traditional livestock management models of the Beni Savanna ecosystem has very little emphasis on habitat and species protection. We would like to present a sustainable livestock management model that is economically viable, ecological and socially friendly, by setting up a pilot ranch at Barba Azul East, functioning as a sustainable example ranch as well as generating sufficient income to protect the Nature Reserve and their conservation activities.”

– detailed Armonía’s conservation program coordinator for the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, Tjalle Boorsma.

Flock of the Critically Endangered and endemic Blue-throated Macaws (Ara glaucogularis) over Barba Azul Nature Reserve (Photo: Sebastian K. Herzog)

Flock of the Critically Endangered and endemic Blue-throated Macaws (Ara glaucogularis) over Barba Azul Nature Reserve (Photo: Sebastian K. Herzog)

We all know that cattle are as good as the pasture in which they graze, therefore ensuring healthy, properly managed grassland is not only a conservationist dream; it is of common and urging interest for local communities, small holders and ranchers to sustainably manage their grasslands for both livestock and wildlife. It is also Armonía’s ultimate goal to establish a long-lasting partnership with cattle ranchers to achieve this goal.

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The program urgently needs support to increase the size of the reserve, to fund reserve rangers to protect it, and to attract visitors that will support its ongoing conservation.

If you would like to support the Barba Azul Nature Reserve program – to protect the Beni Savanna and its wealth of threatened wildlife – please donate.

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We thank our international partners and individual donors for the achievements of Barba Azul Nature Reserve program – we cannot save the species or empower our people without your generous support. Thank you.

 

Discover more
Buffies are back at Barba Azul Nature Reserve
Read about the Barba Azul Nature Reserve
Read about the Blue-throated Macaw program
Find out how to visit the Barba Azul Nature Reserve