This story was originally covered by PRI's Living on Earth. For more, listen to the audio above.
The nonprofit Africa Center for Holistic Management has been bringing back dry, unproductive, and desertified land back to life using simple livestock management techniques. Wildlife biologist Allan Savory, who works with the group, told PRI's "Living on Earth" that the project has changed his mind about cattle:
I used to condemn them totally until I found from my own research that I was wrong. Now I defend a completely different position. Livestock are the only tool available to science with which to reverse desertification.
The theory is very simple, according to Professor Zakhe Mpofu, who also works with the group. The idea is to make sure the herders are "keeping them where we actually want them." The cattle are moved around in bunches, which kicks up the ground, making easier for the rain to soak in. Then the herds are moved often, so no land is exposed to the animals for more than 3 days, and then it's never re-exposed to the animals for 6-9 months.
The results have been dramatic. What was once desert has been transformed into grasslands. The water in the area has improved dramatically, an effect that benefits the women and children in the community who are fetch the water. They've also seen increases crop productivity. "It's not only about land," says Mpofu, "it's about land and people."
Mpofu believes that the group's livestock management techniques could benefit Africa and the world as a whole. "It has meant quite a lot for me because I have seen how communities can be changed," Mpofu says. "Their lives can be changed"
Hosted by Steve Curwood, "Living on Earth" is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. More "Living on Earth."