Overgrazing

Herding has been an important part of Palestinian livelihoods for centuries. Livestock are “grazing” animals that require open space (“rangeland”) to forage on plants. Rural communities use herding for vital sources of income by selling dairy products and meat. Some grazing is beneficial to ecosystems, since livestock circulate nutrients back into the soil and can promote plant growth. The landscape is actually dependent on grazing to maintain the natural balance of the ecosystem, for example, the chaparral landscape that tends to overgrow without grazing animals. However, over-grazing occurs when too many livestock feed on resources of the rangeland beyond capacity, leading to land “desertification.” The problem of desertification is water-scarce landscapes areas like Palestine is that they are less likely to recover from damage, and therefore, harm people who live off of the land.

Rangeland covers a significant portion of the total area in the region, particularly on the eastern slopes. Uncontrolled grazing over the last 50 years has contributed to decreased forage production. The greatest effect of overgrazing on the rangeland ecosystem is the removal of plant cover, which leads to soil erosion preventing future growth. Few isolated grazing areas are left, leading to lack of food for livestock, high prices for dairy products, poor land management out of desperation. Many Palestinians have been forced to give up their traditional source of income and livelihood leading to severe socioeconomic depression in the region.