Restoring rangelands, sequestering carbon in the soil, and improving livelihoods in rural South Africa

South Africa’s rangelands are severely degraded due, in large part, to decades of overgrazing on communally owned land. Communal farmers, who own half of the country’s livestock, but supply only 5% of the meat market, face numerous obstacles in participating in formal meat markets. TASC has invested in Meat Naturally, a company with a commitment and strategy to help communal farmers earn more for their livestock and to regenerate  the rangelands where their animals roam.

Meat Naturally uses the Herding for Health (H4H) methodology to improve soil health, agricultural productivity, and farmer livelihoods. They have deployed the methodology for several years with a focus on increasing farmers’ incomes from livestock sales to formal meat markets. Despite many years of progress, the program was vulnerable to extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, which can reverse progress and lead some farmers to abandon the improved management practices they had adopted. The Grassland Restoration and Stewardship in South Africa (GRASS) project is designed to promote, scale up, and incentivize the adoption of these regenerative grazing techniques amongst the communal farmers of South Africa. The practices, if utilised correctly, will greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by restore will restore rangeland health, sequester carbon in the soil and reduce methane emissions by improving the digestive health of cattle.

The additional income from carbon finance has increased the scale of the program and the scope of services and support available to farmers. Furthermore, as a large proportion of carbon credit revenue is shared with farmers via a community trust, ongoing participation is incentivised, and accruing environmental benefits are protected from the threats that previously destabilised the H4H program.

The project is designed to be flexible, adaptive, and responsive to community needs while maintaining technical rigour. The project includes training farmers to improve grazing and fire management practices, and the provision of veterinary services to support herd health. Activities are negotiated and agreed on an annual basis with full, free, prior, and informed consent from all relevant parties, and formalized in a stewardship agreement that is recognized under South African law.

There are several partner entities involved in the implementation of this project. TASC and Meat Naturally are responsible for oversight and coordination. They are supported by several implementation and technical partners. The participating community members, including farmers, Ecorangers and the fire management committee, receive training and ongoing technical support through a train-the-trainer approach.

The project currently spans over 100,000ha of rangeland and is forecast to span 400,000ha within the next two to three years. Once it reaches that target, it is forecast to sequester or avoid over 500,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions each year. The project is proposed to extend over a minimum of 30 years and to mitigate over 14 million tonnes of CO2e.