The project “Sustainable Amazonian Landscapes”

Photo credit: CIAT-DAPA

Establishment of the garden of shrubs and forages.

A garden of shrubs and grasses to rehabilitate deforested landscapes in the Amazon

by Nora P. Castañeda-Alvarez

Caquetá is one of the regions with the highest rate of deforestation in the Colombia. Approximately 29000 ha were deforested in 2013 in the region, representing 24.7% of the total area deforested in the country, as informed by thenational monitoring system of forests and carbon. This department is located in the Colombian Amazon and covers the transition between the Andes and the Amazon, making this region rich in biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Livestock production is one of the main economic activities in Caquetá, representing 11% of the local GDP, according to the Colombian statistics office (DANE). Meat and milk production in Caquetá are usually carried out in large extensions where by the beginning of the 20th century it was possible to find native rainforest instead. Nowadays, native forests are only present in relicts or in remote areas in the mountains and lowlands of the Amazon, morichales(a type of riparian forest) are the few standing natural habitats that survived deforestation, and soils are becoming more and more degraded with time.

Given the recent changes in the political scene in Colombia, it is expected that the region will receive new-comers if the peace agreement is signed, this will be translated into more pressures to the current productive systems and the remaining natural ecosystems. In addition, the demand for beef and milk is steadily growing as the income of Colombians continues to improve, and it is unlikely that a switch to a more plant-based diet will happen within the coming decade.

In order to address these challenges, alternatives to improve meat and milk production in Caquetá in a more sustainable way are needed. Silvopastoral systems (SPS) are spatial arrangements of trees, forages and animals that can help maintaining and improving ecosystem services, restoring degraded lands, reducing the pressure against native forests, while at the same time enhancing the production of meat and milk.

Read the full article: CIAT-DAPA

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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