When I rewilding farming schemes I don't think of the Karoo. The Landmark Foundation are trying to get that to change. The idea is simple enough: the Karoo grassland has evolved to persist around giant migrations of springbok and other ruminants, as well as droughts and fires. So if you replicate that kind of shock grazing with long recovery periods, you play into the evolutionary tactics of the plants themselves. By combining farms, removing fences, and using more traditional shepherding, semi-nomadic techniques, they've been able to go four years without having to buy feed. Even though those four years include the worst drought in history for the region; that's huge!
Not only does the use of herding mimic the pattern of wild grazing, the overnight kraals used as the herd is moved around actually help break up the soil and spread seeds. You can actually see green patches where kraals were located in the past, and these act as reseeding islands that slowly spread out, counteracting overgrazing that is normal in fenced farms.
There's also a huge amount of really interesting facts in this article:
- Despite the widespread use of gin traps, 10% of sheep in the Karoo are lost annually to predators. With shepherds, the farms have eliminated predation loss;
- South Africa is the second-most fenced area of land on the planet after Texas, as a result of historic grants that aimed to reduce farm labour (why?);
- It's cost-neutral to remove fences as the materials can be resold for more than the cost of labour to remove them;
- A claim is made that the use of planned grazing (which is what they're doing here, that allows grassland to recover between grazing sessions) improves CO2 and water capture in the soil enough that, if it were used on half the world's arable grassland, we could sequester sufficient carbon to reach pre-industrial levels, even if you tripled the animal stock. Not sure I believe that but it's a fascinating idea.