Pastoralism and the green economy – a natural nexus?

Submitted by Nicholas Reay | published 4th Feb 2016 | last updated 15th Mar 2016

Climate Adaptation Resource Guide for Dryland & Semi-Arid Areas Annotation

The report describes the growing interest in the green economy and the huge potential of pastoralism to contribute to the delivery of sustainable outcomes. The state of knowledge under three themes is reviewed: (1.) the ability of pastoralism to maintain natural capital; (2.) pastoralism’s resource efficiency and sustainable production in marginal environments and (3.) the conditions required for pastoralism to achieve its potential to contribute to the green economy. Pastoralism lies at the nexus of the three pillars of sustainability, the report concludes by making a number of recommendations to enhance pastoralism’s role as a contributor to the green economy.

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Cover of Pastoralism and the Green  Economy – a natural nexus?


McGahey, D., Davies, J., Hagelberg, N. and Ouedraogo, R. (2014)


The “Green Economy” is a vision of the future wherein material wealth is not generated at the cost of increasing environmental risk, ecological scarcity or social disparity. Considerations over “green” development for the global livestock sector are at an all-time high and whilst countries grapple with what this entails, many of them possess large areas of rangelands that are managed through pastoralism and which already make a major contribution to environmental sustainability and the economy. This role is poorly understood, neglected and even eroded by misguided policies, investments and attitudes. Not only does pastoralism have a major role to play in management of natural capital and sustainable production but the aspirations of the Green Economy offer a powerful opportunity to overturn years of prejudice and misunderstanding of pastoralism.

This study focuses on pastoralism’s current and future potential for securing sustainable management and green economy outcomes from the world’s rangelands. It synthesises existing evidence and uses practical examples from mobile pastoralism in Europe, Latin America, North America, Central, Western and Southern Asia, Australia and throughout Africa to both demonstrate the system’s inherent characteristics for adaptive sustainability and some of the key opportunities and challenges for promoting development in rangelands. Finally, the study identifies the key enabling conditions required for pastoralism to deliver on its potential role in a Green Economy.

This report is financed by UNEP and is part of the efforts of UNEP, IUCN and the World Initiative for Sustainable Pastoralism (WISP), to provide the social, economic and environmental arguments for increased recognition of sustainable pastoralism as a viable land management option for the world’s rangelands.

Suggested Citation

McGahey, D., Davies, J., Hagelberg, N., and Ouedraogo, R. (2014) Pastoralism and the Green Economy – a natural nexus? Nairobi: IUCN and UNEP.

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