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John Lozier <JLOZIER@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU>
Subject: CATTLE and RAINFORESTS
Here's a chance to send the same message to three of my
favorite listservers: ANTHRO-L (anthropology), SANET-MG
(sustainable agriculture), and CHIAPAS-L. Allow me to
recommend you all to each other. While I am at it, I will
also send it to my very favorite list, HARP. I am harping
here in the more usual sense, not in the musical sense which
would come first to mind with my harper friends.
I refer you to an article entitled "Animal Agriculture for the
Reforestation of Degraded Tropical Rainforests," by Ronald
Nigh. (CULTURE AND AGRICULTURE, the Bulletin of the Culture
and Agriculture Group of the American Anthropological
Association, Numbers 51-52, Spring-Summer 1995, pp. 2-6.)
Nigh's institutional affiliation is Centro de Investigaciones
y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social del Sureste, San
Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.
Instead of summarizing, I will give some quotes.
"My view has moved from . . . seeing cattle as the principle
cause of tropical forest destruction . . . to the present
argument that livestock production is a key element in
tropical forest restoration!" (Author's own exclamation
On traditional animal management: "(The) Maya . . . managed
secondary vegetation . . . to increase wild animal density.
The temporary, artificial creation of early successional
vegetation associations - fields, grasslands, or forage
brushlands, - may . . . provide the overall strategy for
On intensive grazing (citing Savory): " This method . . . has
allowed us to reduce the area of a ranch devoted to pasture to
one-third or even one-tenth of the area, while at the same
time increasing bioeconomic production in absolute terms.
This . . . has permitted the freeing up of lands, many of
which should never have been converted. . . ."
Early observations on degraded pastures sown with African
exotics: "pastures respond (under controlled grazing) by
diversifying; especially, we note a welcome increase in some
native legumes. . . . (under a recent mild drought) our
pastures held up and recovered much better than our neighbors
with uncontrolled grazing or no grazing at all."
On "enrichment planting" (citing Ramos and del Amo) and the
"natural ecosystem analogue approach" (citing Hart and
others): "It is possible both to speed the successional
process and to greatly increase the economic return at each
stage of succession, thus providing an important incentive for
forest regeneration. Production is achieved by substitution
of . . . more economically valuable species of the same
structure and behavior. . . ." Example: vanilla.
On aquatic resources: "The restoration of the tropical
ecosystem and the elimination of the use of agrotoxics allows
the recovery of important aquatic resource zones that formerly
supplied a rich harvest of fish, crustaceans, mollusks,
reptiles, amphibians, turtles and birds. Some of these were
managed intensively in the past."
Cattle production system: "Dual-purpose organic milk and meat
production is based on intensive, controlled grazing,
concentrated only on appropriate lands and combines the use of
cattle genetically selected for pasture-based tropical
systems." Specifically, the animal is "a Holstein Brahmin
(Sahiwal) F1 from New Zealand. . . adapted to a pure grazing
system . . . for organic milk production in the tropics."
Tropical regions have been especially intractable to
modern technology. The complex ecology of the tropics
responds with particular vehemence to management methods
that view agriculture as an "industrial process" rather
than as a natural system. Organic methods, along with a
holistic approach to resource planning and marketing and
a respect for traditional knowledge provide a viable
strategy for the design of sustainable production systems
in tropical regions.
Some personal remarks:
Anthropologists: If you are not studying agriculture, you are
not leaving out the main thing. Contemporary culture IS
agriculture. Been that way for a long time.
"SUSTAGGIES" (as tagged by Michele Gale-Sinex): US and MEXICAN
farmers have a lot in common. Please PAY ATTENTION to what is
happening in Mexico.
To CHIAPAS-L: Thanks for being there, nursing the hopes of a
The challenge in Chiapas and elsewhere is not just political,
economic and social. It is also cultural, and specifically,
it is AGRIcultural. All the goals listed in question 1 of the
CONSULTA will be useless without a sustainable agriculture.
THANKS TO RONALD NIGH, we have a fine piece of work which we
can discuss, dealing SPECIFICALLY with the agroecology of
Chiapas. Is there a Mexican or other agricultural scientist
who will come forward with an agroecological analysis of
extensive cattle production showing it to be technically
superior? Or an economist who will show that with all social
and environmental externalities taken into consideration,
intensive grazing is more costly (or less beneficial) than
extensive grazing? I'd like to see someone try.
HARPING ON to a conclusion:
The fabulous Latin American harper Alfredo Rolando Ortiz,
on his training cassette, plays two tunes, both very
charming, and then comments that the two tunes are
political symbols of two opposing parties. "So," he
says, "you must be careful to know who you are playing
for. So much for politics."
But Alfredo never tells us which means what.
So much for politics.
Adjunct Associate Professor of Agricultural Education
College of Agriculture and Forestry
West Virginia University
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
California University of Pennsylvania
***// / Harping for Harmony
\/// / John Lozier
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