The identification and study of sustainable production systems corresponds to one of the fundamental pillars of scientific and technological conservation and development in the region. For SAL: Sustainable Amazonian Landscapes, a key aspect of the project is to push forward knowledge already generated by local academics and researchers, while also strengthening capacities of the younger generations in the region. In this regard, the Universidad de la Amazonía – UNIAMAZ, based in Florencia, Caquetá, fills a fundamental role as one of our project partners, with more than ten students from their Master’s in Agroforestry linked to the project. The students carry out an arduous research work, together with CIAT, across various themes: soil physics, soil chemistry, soil macrofauna, soil use mapping, hydraulic modeling, biomass production, and evaluation of regional forage varieties. These students are producing high quality knowledge within the Amazonian context in order to develop sustainable production systems that are economically profitable, environmentally friendly and socially just, and at the same time can be replicated by both smallholder and medium-scale agricultural producers in the region, in order to improve their quality of life.
Macagual Amazon Research Center (Centro de Investigaciones Amazónicas Macagual)
The university has an experimental station, Macagual which plays a very important role within the project. In Macagual, the university is creating demonstration plots with different silvopastoral arrangements using tropical forage species taken from CIAT.
Tropical forages help allow smallholder farmers to improve their production of meat and dairy, thanks to their ability to provide a valuable food source for the livestock. These crops also have a great potential to reduce the ecological footprint generated by agriculture, through their abilities to capture carbon and restore degraded soils.
These demonstration plots or forage showcases (vitrinas forrajeras) are spaces for both research and extension work. The postgraduate students perform their research there, in themes such as biomass production, nutritional quality and greenhouse gas emissions. As a part of the extension work component, the farmers can see the different performances of the various forage species in display plots which have the same physical landscape as their own farms, they can receive training on the management of these species, and they can select specific forage arrangements based off of their own needs.
The forage showcase plots are a technological tool which allows us to identify which forage materials are best adapted to the specific conditions of the Amazon. We count on the valuable support of the Universidad de la Amazonia and its experimental station in Macagual, where they also have a meteorological station, greenhouses needed to grow the plant material in, and two forage display plots, one in a hilly landscape and the other in a valley landscape.
Forages Program Research Assistant, CIAT
A landscapes focus
The most efficient method for incorporating aspects of conservation and human development into soil use planning is that of a landscapes focus. Within this focus, instead of considering landscape elements (such as soils, climate, geology, physical geography) in an isolated manner, one takes into account all of the interactions of these elements, as well as the ecosystem services which they produce, with the end goal of improving livelihoods, increasing socioeconomic benefits for agricultural producers, and achieving food security, while at the same time strengthening climate change adaptive capacity and mitigation efforts in the region.
However “landscape” can be an abstract concept, seeing as both scale and spatial limits are difficult to establish from a desk. For this project, we count on spaces such as Macagual where we can identify, evaluate, and provide knowledge to the farmer on the performance of some sustainable production systems before they reach the farm. This creates confidence in the farmer, who realizes how important it is that systems have been evaluated under the same conditions and characteristics (that is to say, landscape) as their own farm.
Establishment of the Forages Showcases
We would like to thank all of our partners and our donor for allowing SAL to be a reality!