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Comments on Papers 29b (De Leeuw and Tothill 1990) and 28b (Scoones 1989)

Research reports

In their recent paper, de Leeuw and Tothill (1990) discussed the shortcomings of estimating carrying capacity (CC) of pastoral systems in Africa. They noted the difficulty of determining available forage per animal due to high annual and spatial variability in plant production, seasonal changes in forage quantity and quality, livestock species mix, and the use of supplemental feeds. Nevertheless, they concluded that the concept `is useful for planning purposes' and that `the underlying principles on which it is based need full acceptance' if sustained resource management is to be accomplished. While agreeing with their review of problems associated with the concept, we take exception to their conclusions. We will present our arguments by addressing the following three questions: (i) Is the concept of CC sound? (ii) Can CC be adequately estimated?, and (iii) Can CC information, even if we could obtain it, be meaningfully applied in pastoral production systems? Finally, we offer an alternative approach for conserving rangeland resources in pastoral systems.