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With support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), Uruguay through its Ministry of Agriculture is implementing a project which aims at fostering a climate smart cattle ranching. The National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA), the Faculty of Agronomy and farmer’s organizations are also key partners of the project. The CCAC is funding the monitoring and reporting of the impact of improved management practices of grasslands and cattle on methane emissions from cattle.
Uruguay is a country with a population of 3.5 million people and 12 million cattle. Agriculture is a key part of Uruguay’s economy, representing 70 per cent of all its exports. At the same time, the agriculture sector contributes to about 75 per cent of Uruguay’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), of which 46 per cent are from enteric fermentation. Methane is by far the main GHG in the national inventory, and agriculture is responsible for 93 per cent of total emissions, being cattle responsible for 91 per cent of total methane emissions.
Uruguay’s national agricultural policies have defined adaptation and mitigation in the beef and dairy cattle sector as main priorities. This is reflected in concrete targets set by the country’s first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement. The National Adaptation Plan prioritizes also the beef and dairy sectors, in harmony with the NDC targets. In the case of beef cattle, improved livestock and grassland management in natural grassland (in Spanish “campo natural”) play a key role in promoting more resilient, less carbon intense and more productive agroecosystems, with benefits for farmers and the society as a whole. This is due to the fact that natural grasslands are the nutritional basis of the cattle and are the dominant land cover in the country.
The government has committed to address the challenges of the beef cattle sector through a holistic approach, which tackles productivity, sustainable land management, food security, economic competitiveness and climate change adaptation and mitigation. A set of practices is promoted for improved livestock management in natural grasslands, focused on sustainable increases in productivity and efficiency in a more inclusive way, representing a multiple-win scenario for farmers and a contribution to food security and to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to the NDC targets.
The following case study presents the experience of Uruguay in reducing emissions intensity of methane through innovative nature based solutions in the cattle sector.