Animal husbandry is usually characterized by a strong concentration and intensification of the breeding system, with many animals forced into a limited area, with an important part of the diet disconnected from territorial productions and generating problems in the management and disposal of manure and slurries. This occurs both in industrialized countries and in those of the South of the world. An exception is the exploitation of grazing areas in more remote territories far from urbanized areas, which is not alleviating troubles as it may occur following deforestation processes, as in the increasingly criticized case of Amazonia.
In our territories, pastures are usually more, rarefied and geographically located in inland and mountains areas. Although with different management and organizational methods, these are characterized by the respect for the ethology of animals, by sustainable livestock loads needed for the renewal of the pasture, by a functional soil absorption of manure, by a reduced use of food integration, by a use of the pharmacopoeia for the sole purpose of containing zoonoses (veterinary diseases) and a consequent greater health and quality of products, whether they are dairy and / or meat-based.
However, these productions struggle to achieve a market favour in terms of distinctiveness and recognition for consumers and of prices that remunerate and compensate for lower yields and higher quality. Over the last few decades, this has led to a decrease in the number of farms, so much so that extensive farming and pastures have consequently and progressively been the subject of several aggressions:
- lack of recognition of the social and environmental value ensured by the zootechnical presence in inland areas;
- search for the lowest price of meat with a pressure on farmers' income;
- fallback on intensive agriculture which, by uprooting the grassland soil in order to substitute it with arable land;
- intrusion of shrubs and woods in abandoned land;
- general underestimation of habitat conservation-through-use strategies.
GRACE aims to "attack aggressions" by:
- upgrading the role of extensive animal husbandry in the Natura 2000 areas of the Lazio region by providing technical equipment to monitor the state of health of the pastures and by rehabilitating the positioning of the supply chain;
- promoting the creation of cooperation initiatives between livestock operators and their representation within and across the distinct territories involved;
- analysing and trying to unravel the knots in the marketing of products and in the generation of income through multifunctionality;
- identifying and promoting marketing solutions; promoting a cognitive, relational, and commercial approach between farmers and citizens / consumers, starting from short and local supply chains.
The final goal of these actions is to protect natural and farmed biodiversity. The extensive breeding allows the maintenance and regeneration of spontaneous floristic essences that require protection in order not to be depleted. Similarly, the recovery and reproduction of animal breeds better suited to the territories and appreciated by consumers contributes to the promotion of farmed biodiversity, favouring the conservation of a larger gene pool and the maintenance of the technical knowledge related to it. For this propose, it should be borne in mind that among the nearly 600 livestock farms active in the three areas of interest of the project, 40% breed native breeds at risk of genetic erosion.
Sustainable animal husbandry does not represent an oxymoron and the conservation of habitats and biodiversity can come true through their responsible use: on environmental protection, grazing livestock plays a role in environmental protection.