Productive Pasture Partnership

Native grass forage management to feed people and protect forests

A single brown cow grazing on grass in Madagascar

We bring a modern approach to address a gap in Madagascar’s environmental governance. Grasses and grasslands are neglected through the assumption they are of little value compared to forests. Fires are a long-term problem that Madagascar does not have the expertise to manage.

We aim to boost the wealth of 1300 people by integrating botanical knowledge, grassland ecology, agricultural science and fire management expertise to trial management methods which will support key forage grasses, improve livestock nutrition, and reduce forest fires. 

Grassland health

The management of native grassland grazing practice will increase the frequency of key nutritious native and endemic grasses. Cattle owners and herders will recognize more grasses, and value these more highly. They will see that pasture plots protected from fire generate higher quality fodder during the project. Native grasses and grassland ecosystems will flourish under a well-managed grazing regime.  

Within 15 years higher grazing pressures in the best pastures will gradually establish and maintain productive grazing lawn ecosystems which naturally prevent fires, switching the highly grazed fire grassland systems to grazing lawn systems. 

Cattle diet and health

Three of the four main elements of cattle nutrition will receive a boost during the project: feed from the fodder crop, more widespread and efficient use of locally available hay and crop residue, and improved wild forage grass nutrition on fire-protected plots (nutrition on burned plots will remain the same). The Sorghum fodder crop cultivar was specifically bred for this purpose, has proven effective in similar climates, and is currently utilised across South Africa. We expect the nutritional improvement to increase livestock milk production first, and then create a gradual but stable weight gain which will be seen through cattle body condition scores. Initial improvement in the demonstration farm animals (detectable in years 1-2) will be followed by a slower but similar improvement in the cattle owned by the participating households (detectable in year 3). Within 15 years we anticipate that healthy cattle in more balanced and nutritious rangeland systems will reproduce more frequently, leading to a 70% calving rate and more livestock.  

Minimised forest fire risk

The custom program of fire management and firebreaks will minimise forest damage by fires during the project and thus protect the unique plants and animals inhabiting these forests. Controlled licensed firebreak burns are expected to reduce the number of unlicensed fires set by community members. Improved pasture productivity will reduce the need to burn pastures for a short-term flush of green grass.   

Within 30 years an increase in heads of cattle will further reduce the fuel available to the fires around forest edges, leading to a decrease in fire frequency and intensity. A shift in the timing of grassland fires from late to early dry season will also lead to reduced fire severity and reduced carbon emissions from fire. The risk to fire sensitive biodiversity in the forest patches will gradually decrease. We hope to develop a method for securing green firebreaks of grazing lawn grasses that are maintained by grazing providing a feedback to cattle health and community wealth. 

Capacity-building, wealth and wellbeing

We anticipate that an estimated 700 members of the 90 project households (estimated 380 women) will experience improved wealth and food security within the project duration. An estimated 1300 residents of the participating communities will be directly exposed to the project activities including access to better managed communal pastures.