Charting a path to more sustainable livestock value chains with a Rangelands Stewardship Council and a rangelands standard

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    CGIAR Initiative on Livestock and Climate
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Over 54% of global terrestrial surface could be used as rangelands. However much of this land has been converted to other uses or is severely degraded. According to the Global Land Outlook Thematic Report on Rangelands and Pastoralists released by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in June 2024 up to 50% of rangelands are degraded, twice as much as previous estimates. Restoration investments are below those for forests and have even been put at risk due to ill-advised tree-planting schemes. This is despite global and national commitments to initiatives such as Resolution L17 on Innovations in Sustainable Rangelands and Pastoralism of the UN Environment Assembly, the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (20212030) and the upcoming International Year of Rangelands and Pastoralists 2026. 

Establishment of a global Rangelands Stewardship Council and rangelands standard 

In response to these issues, the Global Environment Facility funded project Sustainable Investments in Large-Scale Rangelands Restoration (STELARR) implemented by IUCN, ILRI and partners is aiming to attract private sector finance for rangeland restoration through sustainable livestock value chains. 

Such investments will require incentives and, together with the UNCCD, STELARR is supporting the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) to develop a global rangelands standard under the oversight of a global Rangelands Stewardship Council. This standard will establish a framework to promote sustainable management practices across rangelands worldwide, rewarding producers for producing products through such practices. A collaborative approach involving existing programmes and diverse perspectives addresses the complexities of rangeland management at all levels. Incorporating the One Health perspective ensures environmental conservation, social responsibility, animal welfare and economic viability. Products produced under this standard will carry a label, allowing producers to charge a premium. For more information, see this film.  

Rewarding sustainable production of livestock products such as vicuña wool that meet a rangelands standard can help reverse rangeland degradation, Bolivia. Photo: Francoise Gaujour.
Rewarding sustainable production of livestock products such as vicuña wool that meet a rangelands standard can help reverse rangeland degradation, Bolivia. Photo by Francoise Gaujour.

Consultations underway 

Extensive consultations are needed to develop the rangeland standard. The first took place at the global Sustainable Natural Fibre Conference held in Beijing on 11–12, April, 2024. The conference provided an opportunity for a side event led by SFA and supported by UNCCD and STELARR to develop the standard and establish the Rangelands Stewardship Council. Rangelands stakeholders attending the conference deliberated on the standard and the role of the Council. It was agreed that the standard is an important step towards safeguarding sustainable use of rangelands while also creating awareness on the important role that pastoralists play as rangelands stewards. 

Sustainable Natural Fibre Alliance Conference held in Beijing on 11-12 April 2024.
Sustainable Natural Fibre Alliance Conference held in Beijing on 11-12 April 2024.

Between now and 2026 when the rangelands standard will be officially launched, partners will support a series of consultations targeting rangelands stakeholders. This will include the document being made available for review and comment on an online portal, as well as the in-person events being planned. These are: 

  • Herder Consultation – Mongolia, July 2024 
  • Natural Fibre Connect Conference – Italy, September 2024 
  • International Symposium on Pastoralism – Senegal (TBC), November 2024 
  • COP 16 Event – Saudi Arabia, December 2024 
  • Camel Standard Consultation – UNCCD COP 16 Side Event, December 2024 
  • RSC Private Sector Investment Roundtable – Location and Date TBC 
  • Sustainable Natural Fibre Conference – China, April 2025 
  • International Rangeland Congress – Adelaide, Australia, June 2-6, 2025 
  • Natural Fibre Connect Conference – Location TBC, September 2025. 

Once approved, the standard will be the first of its kind for rangeland products. It will help promote sustainable production of rangelands products and is an opportunity to raise awareness on rangelands, their importance and the need for their protection and restoration. 

Funded by the Global Environment Facility, STELARR is being implemented by IUCN and executed by ILRI in partnership with the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, International Center for Agricultural Research for Dry Areas (ICARDA), Center for International and World Agroforestry Centre Forestry Research (CIFOR-ICRAF), the Secretariat of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, and the Sustainable Fibre Alliance. Additional research support is provided by the CGIAR Research Initiative on Livestock and Climate.  

Story by Rahel Abiy, Project Assistant and Fiona Flintan, Senior Scientist and Project Lead, ILRI.

Banner photo: Reversing rangeland degradation is a must for ensuring the sustainability of pastoralism as a viable land use in Ethiopia. Photo by F.Flintan/ILRI. 

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