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Promoting sustainable livestock intensification to protect the Maya Forest

July 26, 2021.The Maya Forest in the border zone between Belize, Guatemala and southern Mexico is the largest area of continuous tropical forest in Mesoamerica totaling just over 10 million hectares, 23 different ecosystems and more than four million hectares of protected areas, so it is considered a hotspot for biodiversity. This jungle, known as the Maya Biosphere Reserve, is being threatened by several causes, one of which is the growth of agricultural activities, including extensive cattle ranching,  which is one of the most important economic activities in the area, on which hundreds of families depend.

 "When livestock systems are not well managed, producers are forced to expand the agricultural frontier in order to increase their herds and maintain production. This results in threats to forests and protected areas," explained Danilo Pezo, a researcher with the Livestock and Environmental Management Unit of CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center).

In this sense, CATIE works to promote the application of agro-ecological principles for the sustainable intensification of cattle ranching, and thus reduce pressure on key biodiversity areas, such as the Selva Maya. "By implementing sustainable intensive cattle ranching, we can increase the productivity of pasture areas without having to look for ways to expand them, improve the standard of living of ranching families, and even free up areas that are currently in degraded pastures for forest regeneration," said Pezo.

To contribute to the strengthening of strategic cooperation in the Maya Forest, the German agency GIZ, on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), implements jointly with the Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD, its Spanish acronym) the project: Strengthening of regional strategic and operational cooperation for the protection of the Maya Forest.

As part of this project, a meeting was held in July in which experts from Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Germany, France and the Netherlands shared their experiences on sustainable livestock farming for landscape restoration and ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), seeking to address, prioritize and disseminate another approach to livestock farming, with sustainable practices that allow more efficient use of soil, water and forest resources at the landscape level and improve productivity.

At this meeting, Pezo and Edwin Pérez, researcher of the Livestock and Environmental Management Unit of CATIE, presented the experiences of the work developed under the projects: Biodiversity and Sustainable Agro-silvopastoral Livestock Landscapes, known as BioPaSOS, and Improving Productivity and Resilience to Climate Change in Livestock Systems in Belize.

During the presentation of the BioPaSOS project, Pérez and Erika Hernández, BioPaSOS project technician in Campeche, highlighted the scope of the capacity building process for producers and technicians carried out by the project, applying the Field School methodology. They also highlighted the inter-institutional work carried out within the Sustainable Agro-ecosystems Working Group of the State of Campeche (AGS-CAM, its Spanish acronym), the research carried out on issues related to biodiversity, GHG emissions, socioeconomic aspects and value chains, among others; as well as the development of key technical information for decision-making, the processes of empowerment of women livestock producers and the work with young people and women involved in the livestock sector to promote citizen science.

Pezo, Jairo Cardona, CATIE technical assistant, and Max Ortega, from the Belize Livestock Producers Association (BLPA), presented the experiences of the project Improving Productivity and Resilience to Climate Change in Livestock Systems in Belize, showing the progress made in the rehabilitation of degraded pastures, through the implementation of intensive rotational grazing systems, the incorporation of fodder banks, the installation of systems for harvesting and efficient use of water on livestock farms, as well as other innovations that are being evaluated on pilot farms.

"In order to increase productivity in livestock systems, improve resilience to climate change and restore livestock-dominated landscapes, it is necessary to address the problem of pasture degradation. Opportunities to restore pastures exist, and they are achieved by using good management practices and silvo-pastoral options, which CATIE has been working on and developing for the last 20 years," said Pezo.

It should be noted that the BioPaSOS project is implemented by CATIE, with the support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), in coordination with the National Commission for Knowledge and Financing of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The project Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRICULTURA), with Improving Productivity and Resilience to Climate Change in Livestock Systems in Belize is implemented by the Belize Livestock Producers Association (BLPA), with financial support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and technical advice from CATIE.

 

More information: 

Danilo Pezo
Researcher
Unidad de Ganadería y Manejo del Ambiente
CATIE
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Edwin Pérez Sánchez 
Coordinador local, Campeche 
Biodiversity and Sustainable Agro-silvopastoral Livestock Landscapes (Bio PaSOS)
CATIE 
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Written by:

Karla Salazar Leiva
Communicator
Information Technology and Communication
CATIE
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