Irene Pérez Ibarra, researcher for Fundación Aragonesa para la Investigación y el Desarrollo (ARAID) [Aragonese Foundation for Research and Development] in the Instituto Agroalimentario de Aragón (IA2) [Aragonese Agrofood Institute] leads the SOSLIVESTOCK project aimed at anticipating to decrease in livestock systems in arid and semiarid areas as they provide the livings and the main employment resource for over two billion people all around the world.
What would be the consequences of the decrease in livestock systems for sustainability?
Livestock systems are the main source of employment for two billion people all around the world, globally producing 44% of farming and 50% of stockbreeding, but they also produce ecosystemic services which are essential to the human being, such as food, natural dangers preventions, climate regulation or biodiversity.
It must be considered that traditional extensive stockbreeding, above all in arid and semiarid environments, produce a series of ecosystemic services which make the benefits society obtains from nature and which are very relevant to social welfare and systems’ sustainability.
Could you give any examples?
For instance, stockbreeding is involved in the development of cultural landscapes, which are important for tourism if we think of a mixed area of forests and meadows that could be found in protected areas. Stockbreeding also reduces the risk of fires, thanks to rural areas’ grazing. In other words, reducing stockbreeding would mean an increase in bushy areas, for example, bringing the subsequent risk of fires. These are some of their most important services stockbreeding provides, as well as being key to food production and, of course, to food safety. In my opinion coronavirus crisis has shown the importance of stockbreeding and farming in Europe.
Which are the main aims and goals of this project?
The main goal is to understand a little better how global climate, as well as socioeconomic changes could be affecting stockbreeding. And the way in which we could strengthen stockbreeding so that it can continue being sustainable.
Apart from that, this project deals with issues such as sustainability, biodiversity, animal welfare… Which impact may it have of organic farming?
I think organic farming is really important to give a higher profitability to this kind of systems. This is one of the situations we should consider. If one of the risks stockbreeding is facing is farms’ lack of credibility, above all the ovine cattle ones, organic farming obviously could be one of the solutions. In my opinion, any innovation aimed at sustainability must appear among the project conclusions.
Finally, the project will combine analysis of different cases in Mexico, Morocco and Spain, satellite images and models based on agents to analyse a high number of livestock systems in arid and semiarid areas. Will you analyse in Aragonese land?
In Spain there are two case studies. One of them will be in Aragón, in the Monegros desert, and the other in the Segura range in the Southwest of Spain. As the project focuses on arid and semiarid areas having their specific challenges, in terms of primary production, of grazings and water resources use, Monegros, of course, is a singular and paradigmatic case because it represents well what Spanish stockbreeding has gone through, which is a clear setback of this activity.