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Regeneration of Grasslands Through Holistic Management

Regenerate Uruguayans grasslands, boost productivity for farmers and producers, generating value add to the whole food system.

Photo of Felipe Urioste
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Pampa Oriental

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Savory Institute, nRhythm, Michigan State University, INIA (National Institute of agriculture investigation), Texas A&M University INAC (National Institute of Meat production), The Nature Conservancy, The University of Sydney, UDE (Uruguayan University of business)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.pampaoriental.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Just beginning now

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Montevideo

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Uruguay

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Uruguay’s native grasslands. It represents 80% percent of the country’s land use. It's between 90.000 and 110.000 km2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Uruguay

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Uruguay is a small country where everybody is somehow connected to the countryside. It is a place with strong farm traditions, involving festivals, food and work. It is mainly a grassland and it is important to us because we all grew up in this place. 

We have experience and we were taught the conventional practices through our whole life that in some point are based on information guided out by multinational companies which are degenerating our ecosystem and are causing more and more dependence to supplies. 

We are being part of a generation that has lack of opportunities in working and producing on the farm. Observing how every day that passes by, more and more people leave rural areas in pursuit of a better life in the city. Generating as a consequence more and more deficiency  on production, poverty and quality of life

  

We are a team formed by seven young agronomists who have a strong environmental conscious and want to make a positive impact on our grasslands, which are very eroded due to lack of regenerative practices.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Uruguay is located on South America, between Argentina and Brazil; it is one of the smallest countries of the region, with 17.6 million hectares. Currently, there are 3.4 million inhabitants, of which half the population lives in the capital city, Montevideo.

It is characterized by a soft landscape, with abundance of rivers and streams that make it ideal for agriculture and livestock. It has a tempered weather with an 1150 mm average rainfall and an annual average temperature of 18°C, that varies between 6°C in winter and 32°C in summer.

It´s moderate weather, with lack of extreme temperatures contributes to have grasslands growing naturally and an excellent development of crops. Therefore, livestock production can be done all year round.

One of Uruguay’s assets is that it is part of the biome known as “Pampa” together with Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay, a place rich in biodiversity.

Moreover, 85% of the territory is managed by farmers that produce in our native grasslands.  Regarding agriculture, between 1.5 and 2 million hectares are destined to this field, the crops with more relevance in area are soy bean, corn, sorghum, wheat, barley and rice. In addition, livestock, agriculture and forestry represent 6.1% of the PBI, and has had a constant rise in the last decade.

The agriculture sector as a whole is the source of employment for more than 12% of the population.

Although Uruguay has a great production potential, it is facing lack of competitiveness. It is the most expensive country within the region, where high costs make it difficult for agricultural production these days to be profitable. The best example we can think of is rice, we have the best productivity worldwide but due to our high costs, it is unfeasible to grow rice.

It is one of the best places to eat "asado" (beef)  in the world,  and it has the world's record of meat consumption per person. Regarding the traditions, people are very attached to their roots, where "mate" is the typical drink weather it's hot or cold. Also, there are myriad of festivals where the main attraction is the horse.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

100000

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

400000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Uruguayan grasslands are currently at risk due to desertification processes caused by improper grazing management. There is a growing demand for meat and other products such as wool and leather that is leading to an intensification of the livestock sector, which is placing increasing pressure on the grassland resources. A good example is China, and this increases this risk by approving production at the expense of ecological and social wealth. If livestock management practices don’t change, the current tendency toward desertification and increased poverty are predicted to stay and accelerate. 

Our current and future problems:

-Overgrazing and erosion (both soil and genetic loss of biodiversity), poor management practices and administration of natural resources that result in a poor productive result.

-Recent historical expansion of agricultural and forestry areas that jeopardize the sustainability of our agro-ecosystems, abruptly altering the habitat of thousands of species. 

-Lack of recognition from urban agents of the importance of the agricultural sector, ignoring the role that the ecosystem services of our grasslands play (quality water, productive, economic and social stability; resilience to changing climatic conditions and with an increasing frequency of extreme events such as droughts and floods on the rise, potential carbon fixation, contributing to mitigate climate change, being also a true landscape and cultural heritage).

-Demerit of rural work associated with a common objective standard of living that is based on the services found in the city. This context determines a growing difficulty in accessing labor.

-Management of production systems based on a technological path that implies the increasing participation of inputs external to the system, with a high level of ignorance of the biological and management processes themselves involved in the production system, which becomes more inefficient processes that are biologically upturned in their efficiency. 

-False conception of environmental awareness, misinformation and neglect in the information managed and disseminated by the various media (with an outstanding role of social networks) about livestock production, which only tarnish an excellent tool such as the livestock for food production with environmental added value.

-Demographic increase, with a growing demand for food production that guarantees not only food but also environmental safety, with a premium on those products with traceability, welfare guarantees and regenerative practices.

Lack of understanding and capacity to implement holistic regenerative livestock management and lack of market incentives to promote the adoption of regenerative practices. As consequence, producers are less encouraged to produce and perceive an associated risk if they change their practices that degrade the very resource upon which their livelihoods depend. This barriers affect nowadays and will affect in the future (2050)

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Our Vision will address the challenges through Holistic Management (HM).

Holistic Management is a strategic planning framework that helps people understand and manage the complexities that exist in natural and human systems.

The result of this is better, more informed management practices that balance key social, environmental and financial considerations. 

It incorporates strategic planning principles and procedures that let users to manage domestic livestock in ways that mimic the behavior of wild herbivores, recreating the natural processes of biological decay and animal impact. It gives farmers, ranchers, land managers, policy makers and others, methodologies and tools needed to address the root causes of land degradation. EVADING A LINEAR THOUGHT. The tools and methodologies given by HM covers cycles water/mineral, community dynamics and energy flow and this ends up restoring water and nutrient cycles, increasing grassland biodiversity and optimizing leaf surface areas which has as a consequence the increase of productivity, leading to ecosystem resilience and an increase in ecosystem services. 

Livestock, properly managed on the grasslands of the world, have a critical role to play in mitigating climate change. Excess CO2 in the atmosphere needs to be drawn down to Earth and safely stored in the soil if we are to maintain a livable climate. The microorganisms in the soil convert CO2 into stable forms of soil carbon that contribute to its ability to absorb and hold water, support life forms, and increase resilience. Grasslands, because of their sheer size – 40% of Earth’s land surface – and their inherent ability to store more carbon in their soils than any other environment, are our best opportunity for carbon sequestration. For each 1% increase in soil organic matter achieved on the world’s 5 billion hectares of grasslands, 64 ppm of carbon dioxide would be removed from atmospheric circulation. (savory.goblal)

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

We are in an inflection point regarding meat, where there is a negative image of how people produce meat; the vegan movement has gained strength condemning meat consumption. So we have the responsibility to show the world that we can produce nutritive food, respecting animal welfare, enhancing rural communities and at the same time sequestering carbon.

That is why we strongly believe “It is not the cow, It is the how”. How we produce must shift towards regenerating our lands. And Uruguay is the perfect place to become a world example of it, it has a very stable economy and also politically speaking, and it is practically native grassland. Boosting Holistic Management will empower farmers and accelerate the economy since we export almost everything we produce.

Not only rural communities will benefit from Holistic Management, it will have an impact on the society as a whole. Producing in harmony with nature brings people in the cities a healthier life, but also tourism will be enhanced since ecotourism is very popular in our country and we are facing problems with cyanobacteria in our beaches.

"Changing the world takes more than everything any one person knows, but not more than we know together. So let´s work together" Simon Sinek

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

We describe our vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for our place and people for 2050 with three key tools given to us by being an independent Hub of the Savory Institute Network:

1) Holistic Management knowledge and curriculum

2) E.O.V.

3) Land to Market (L2M)

1) Quoting again, Holistic Management is a strategic planning framework that helps people understand and manage complexities that exist in natural and human systems, resulting in better, more informed management practices that balance key social, environmental and financial considerations. 

So, it helps restore ecosystem services, helps to develop strategies for managing herds of domestic livestock resulting in regenerative, economically viable and socially sound management of grasslands. It is successful because it is socially and culturally appropriate, cost-effective and nature-based. It is sustainable because it increases land productivity and economic returns, improving livelihoods for farmers and communities. 

 

2)The Ecological Outcome Verification, developed in collaboration with major research institutions and soil scientists, is the first methodology of its kind to be based on outcomes, not practices. In other words, rather than providing an inventory of management behavior (tilling, cover cropping, rotational grazing), it measures how the land is responding to its management as a living system.  Measuring and trending key criteria such as soil health, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and ecosystem function, the Ecological Outcome Verification gives the land a voice of its own.  It will allow all of us — scientists, farmers, marketers and consumers — to better understand regeneration as a process that we have the power to foster through empirically-informed management. 

Through empirical and tangible outcomes, which in turn provide the farmer with ongoing feedback from which to make better management decisions. EOV measures and trends key indicators of ecosystem function, which in the aggregate indicate positive or negative trends in the overall health of a landscape. 

In addition to providing an outcome-based verification of the health of the land base, EOV also provides critical intelligence to the farmer as a steward and manager of the land. By recognizing both land regeneration targets and trends, EOV endorsement and associated incentives are bestowed as long as land health moves in a net positive direction. 

 

3) Land to Market program must share a story of positive change and fortunately for us, it’s a story that tells itself: regenerating landscapes, thriving livelihoods, stronger communities, engaged brands and retailers, and informed consumers. 

The urgency of the issues and challenges we have in our place and for our people in Uruguay, require ACTIONS to EQUIP, PREPARE AND to TRAIN our communities with the CAPACITY and MEANS to understand land DEGRADATION processes and to develop ways of regenerating the FOUNDATIONS on which their lives hold. 

 

What Holistic Management provides for food security, is increasing the health of the soil and the productivity of the land, enhancing its ability to provide food. And although we are being repetitive “Holistic Management is successful because it is cost-effective, highly scalable and nature-based. It is sustainable because it increases profits for landowners without compromising the long-term viability of the resource base. Holistic Management guides the use of livestock to prepare crop fields increasing yields by over four times with no additional inputs.”

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Through a colleague of the Savory Institute Network

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friendly reminder the final deadline to publish your currently unpublished submission to the Prize is less than 2 days away! Please click "Publish" at the top of your submission before January 31, 2020 @ 2:00 p.m. Pacific Time to ensure submission is eligible for the Prize.

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