About 50 per cent of land cover in Australia has been changed by complete clearing, thinning of vegetation, overgrazing, changed fire regimes and other habitat modifications. In New Zealand, large areas of forest had been cleared and virtually all grazeable land converted to pasture by 1920 to provide wool, meat and dairy exports. Today, around 50 per cent of land in both countries is used for grazing (Commonwealth of Australia 1996, New Zealand Ministry for the Environment 1997).
In Southern Africa, escalating land degradation over the past decade has been caused by increased livestock. Overgrazing causes more than half the soil degradation in the sub-region. In Namibia, livestock production subsidies actually encourage farmers to raise more livestock than if they had to meet the full costs themselves (Byers 1997). With new economic policy changes under way in the region of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), including the removal of such subsidies, stocking rates are expected to decline over the next decade.