Sustainable Ranching is officially in the works for protecting habitats in the Beni department. Over the last year, the Barba Azul Nature Reserve has started implementing best practices in Barba Azul East, currently managing 137 head of cattle with the goal of reaching 1000 head in order to achieve economic sustainability and fulfill government requirements.
For Sustainable Ranching to reach past the boundaries of the reserve and towards conserving the Llanos de Moxos area, Asociacion Armonia has published a practical guide for Sustainable Ranching. This Spanish-language guide, being distributed at ranching associations and public outreach events in the Beni department, is packed with information for ranchers on problems avoided and benefits achieved, techniques and how to implement them, and species of flora and fauna protected by a change in ranching practices.
Ranching in the Llanos de Moxos means cattle in open, seasonally-flooded savannas that are highly exposed to sun year-round, chilling winds in the winter dry season, and flooded areas in the rainy season. The characteristic Motacu-dominated forest islands in this ecosystem provide refuge for cattle and wildlife alike, being slightly elevated and drier than the open areas, as well as providing shade from the sun and relief from wind and cold. Constant cattle presence takes its toll, however, with trampling of new growth and compacting of soil preventing regeneration of these islands of forest. Overgrazing also overtasks the ability of the open areas to produce forage, resulting in environmentally-damaging practices such as burning of pastures, use of herbicides, and the introduction of exotic forages that lead to a snowball effect of environmental degradation and unsustainability.
Sustainable Ranching practices provide remedies for these challenges. Implementation of alternative shelter protects cattle from the elements, while rotational grazing keeps cattle out of degraded forest islands at critical times and nurtures the growth of native forages. The best practices take into account the needs of the cattle while also helping maintain a balance between ranching and wildlife, considering the health and well-being of human populations at the same time. Guidance provided in the handbook includes necessary infrastructure, basic organizational considerations, methods for pasture management, and ecosystem conservation considerations. Sustainable techniques as outlined in the guide are economically viable, highly productive, and beneficial for the environment.
One major outcome expected from the outreach efforts related to this Best Practices Guide is the establishment of a Beni Grassland Alliance. Initial responses from ranchers have been positive.
Our Sustainable Ranching conservation efforts are possible due to the support of BirdLife International, Toyota Environmental Activities Grants (through BirdlLife Tokyo), and Vogelbescherming Nederland. The publication of the Practical Guide for Sustainable Ranching and related Outreach and Education Activities were supported by the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (NMBCA) of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. On the ground, CIBIOMA and Estancias Espiritu provided necessary and appreciated support in the reviewing of the outreach booklet. We express our appreciation to each of these organizations and look forward to reporting many more positive outcomes from this project!
Read the Spanish-language guide here.