The assessment of pastoral resources is an activity that frequently challenges those involved in the livestock industry, in environmental protection, and in land and pastoral resource management. The main objectives of integrated land, forage and livestock resource assessment are to quantify resource endowment, understand inter-relationships between resource components, predict environmental impact, estimate livestock support capacity, and to evaluate development options.
Using traditional methods, resource assessments are often too difficult and time consuming, and carry the risk of misleading results. This is due to the lack of account of the complex and inter- related nature of forage supply and livestock forage requirements, typical of most farms and pastoral systems.
In order to carry out my work, I created RAPS software as a tool to aid managerial, policy and development decisions, primarily by analysing land and forage resources for their productivity and livestock support capacity, taking system complexity into account.
The programme’s origin is in the evaluation of New Zealand pastoral properties during the late 1970’s. Development of the programme began in earnest during the mid-1980’s and since then it has undergone considerable enhancement and testing. The major components of the programme have more than fifteen years of field application in a wide range of environments and countries. Development of RAPS is ongoing, as required.
As a pastoral resource assessment tool, RAPS has been used successfully on pastoral systems in environments ranging from humid mountains to arid deserts. Despite the original focus of the design of RAPS being pastoral systems dominated by extensively grazed areas (ie grasslands and rangelands), it has also proven useful on intensively developed livestock production farms. Livestock components have included diverse types such as sheep, goats, cattle, horses, camels and yaks (other types, such as herbivorous game and wildlife, may be analysed). RAPS has been used in the assessment of private pastoral properties, in local and regional development projects and for land use planning. It’s use extends well beyond “static” livestock support capacity assessment.
In addition to the details of RAPS presented here, the FAO publication Grassland resource assessment for pastoral systems (Plant Production and Protection Paper 162, 2000) contains case studies that illustrate my professional approach and the application and development of RAPS.
As indicated above, my professional specialisation has focused on integrated grassland/livestock survey; assessment of livestock carrying capacity; evaluation of development options; grassland development and fodder production; livestock grazing management, and; the assessment of environmental impact of pastoralism. In addition, I have worked on project identification, preparation and evaluation missions.
My international work has mainly related to development projects of United Nations Organisations. I have worked in New Zealand, Australia, Bhutan, China, Ethiopia, India, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Sudan.