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Why are there no grasslands in Northeast Brazil? - for Allan Savory...  RSS feed

 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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I live on a small farm in the semi-arid region of Bahia, rainfall 500 mm.
I have followed the Holistic Management discussion for years, and it really makes sense, and I see that our local farmers ( who always run small herds of animals as well) could hugely benefit from the high impact/long rest principles.
What I am wondering is: why are there no natural grasslands here? We have everything ranging from semi-deciduous forests to brushland, with ephemeral grasses at best, but no real grasslands. The ground cover here is composed of bromelias and agaváceas.
The grasses used in pastures here come from Africa.
Someone once said that when man drove the large herbivores to extinction in this continent, the grasses went with them?
But I still wonder how appropriate is it to introduce perennial grasses to a region which never had them ( at least for the last 10,000 years...)
I have not located people practicing Holistic Management ( especially small-scale) in Brazil (especially teachers!), but they must exist?
Marsha Hanzi
Marizá Epicenter of Culture and Agroecology
Tucano, Bahia
www.marsha.com.br
 
Fred Morgan
steward
Posts: 979
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
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They say that Costa Rica has no native grasses (except a few species of bamboo) - probably because it was all forest. Honestly, I find it hard to believe since grass seed migrates. I would tend to think that there was very little grasslands.

I would be careful with some of the grasses out there, since they will kill trees (brizante is an example, no idea if I spelled it right). It is so aggressive it chokes out the trees - probably the grass you are talking about, since here it is called Brazilian grass, though it comes from Africa. It is easier to introduce grass, than get rid of it.

Goats don't need grass, they prefer browse, wide leaf, etc. They are very healthy on a diet of underbrush, but will starve to death on just grass, so I am told. All I know is that my goats are very happy living in the under-story of my forests, and produce lots of milk, with very little feed. In fact, the only feed they get, is to keep them occupied while I am milking them.

Goats also are more efficient milk producers for their size.
 
David Kim
Posts: 4
Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil
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Introducing or encouraging native grasses from the Brazilian Cerrado (although not truly native to the semi-arid region, or maybe they're already part of it in a much smaller scale than in the grasslands) to grow might cause less impact on the local ecology than African grasses. The region is probably drier now due to human presence than it was just a few hundred years ago. Goats might not benefit much from grasses, but there's a host of other animals that will. Humans will, too. The aridness of the region causes people to migrate to other regions, carrying along their ecological footprint wherever they go.
 
Allan Savory
Author
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Marsha,
Fortunately people in Brazll are just becoming more aware of the hope that managing holistically entails. The Bahia area is as you say problematic and may well be one of the many from which grasslands largely disappeared with the great destruction of large herbivores in the past. If as you say livestock are currently being run on extensive non-cropping areas then it is highly likely you will see improvement if as usual you simply start doing so using the planning process we do - thus increasing animal impact while minimizing any overgrazing or overbrowsing of plants. The possibility of not seeing improvement is about zero.
However there is always more to it that we cover with the holistic framework - the need to manage in a manner that decreases rather than increasing risk, financial or weather and to make it profitable step by step as the land is improved. If you look at my responses to some of the others during these days I have been asked to respond you will find that we are (Savory Institute) trying to get people in all countries to establish locally led and managed learning hubs from which knowledge and experiences can spread locally. Do have a look at this strategy on our web site as some Brazilians are already becoming involved I believe. None of us, least of all me, has answers to these difficult situations. What we do have that is proving so encouraging is the framework we have developed with it's planned grazing process used when livestock are involved, and that is enabling people using existing knowledge and some new insights to begin solving their problems.
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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Thank you all for the replies. I personally use goats and pigs, who do wonderfully well on the native forbes, but huge tracts of "caatinga" (native brush) are being cut down here to establish pastures, now that farming has become so incertain. Ironically these grasses die in the dry summers, and the farmers save their cattle by running them - in the caatinga... For these ( rather insane) projects they implant the African grasses, though, since the historic drought of last year, many are thinking to reduce herd sizes... I see hope in these cases to use planned holistic grazing to improve the health of the soil ( and of our water table!!!)
The problem with goats here is the expense of keeping them fenced!
 
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