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Reinventing the ranch

Cattle farming has a devastating impact on the environment. But now one project is helping Colombian farmers completely remodel their land to fight climate change.

It’s not a good time to be a meat eater. Pressure is growing to tackle climate change – and the livestock sector produces 15% of global greenhouse emissions, with cattle farming accounting for two thirds of that. Not only do cows produce damaging methane gas, but creating pasture for the animals has led to widespread deforestation.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Colombia: 34 million hectares of land there is devoted to cattle ranching. The land that’s been cleared to graze cattle is often left without trees, meaning the soil quickly becomes arid and useless.

Now an ambitious project aims to demonstrate that cattle ranching can be ecologically sound. An expert team is helping more than 4,000 farmers dramatically remodel their land. Instead of open fields, they are planting trees and shrubs, and allowing small plants to grow among the grass.

This more intensive planting helps to store carbon and provides a healthier diet for cows, meaning they produce less methane and more milk and meat. But are other cattle farmers likely to follow suit and adopt this “silvopastoral” approach?

Presenter: Kat Hawkins
Reporter: William Kremer

(Photo credit: BBC)

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24 minutes