Towards BIOSmart livestock farming in Colombia: cultural landscapes, silvo-pastoral systems and biodiversity

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Clinical Veterinary Science

Abstract

Colombia is the second most biodiverse country in the world with a large rural population of small-holder, low income farmers. As the demand for meat and dairy increases, livestock farming continues to expand onto land that is not appropriate for farming, causing environmental damage through forest clearance, loss of biodiversity and land degradation. Different national initiatives aim to encourage more intensive and sustainable farming that support farmers' livelihoods and protect the environment and its rich biodiversity. Silvo-pastoral farming is one of those initiatives as it combines forestry and grazing. However due to cultural and social factors, in combination with possible economic and agronomic influences, uptake remains low and deforestation continues.

This interdisciplinary project brings together cultural geography, behavioural economics and ecological expertise from both the UK and Colombia to investigate the cultural and socio-economic reasons for low adoption of silvo-pastoral livestock farming practices that can support livelihood and protect biodiversity. Through farmer interviews and focus groups and existing socio-economic data sets we will develop and test effective mechanisms through dissemination, farmer to farmer engagement and government policy that promote effective uptake and implementation of best practice. Furthermore we will undertake a large scale field trial and quantify the scale dependent benefits of silvo-pastoral practices and forest protection on biodiversity and ecosystem services to provide landscape scale policy relevant guidance on the optimal approaches to promote forest protection and silvo-pastoral implementation at the landscape scale, beyond just the individual farm.

These approaches will help sustainably intensify livestock production whilst protecting forests and other natural areas in order to support economic development, biodiversity protection and social wellbeing in Colombia.

Planned Impact

The BIO-smart project builds on an ongoing project funded under the same RCUK-CIAT Newton Fund initiative on Forages in Tropical Agriculture. Preliminary discussions with potential partners, fieldwork and instruments for data collection are evolving under this programme. More specifically, we have strong levels of engagement with CIAT scientists and the "Livestock Plus", "Sustainable Amazon Landscapes" and "Implementing sustainable agricultural and livestock systems for simultaneous targeting of forest conservation for climate change mitigation (REDD+) and peace-building in Colombia" projects.

As a result of this ongoing work we identify the following communities who will be affected by this project, namely i) smallholder farmers currently adopting and wishing to adopt SPS, ii) policy stakeholders interested in seeking ways to promote SPS for increasing resilience and enhance ecosystems services within Colombian agricultural systems, iii) consumers of milk and meat produce within Colombia.

Smallholder farmers in Colombia are the most important beneficiaries. By developing silvo-pastoral practices that sustainably intensify production and improved quality and yield, smallholders will benefit economically in the long term. And through a greater understanding and assumed responsibility for the protection of forests and natural areas, farmers and their communities will benefit socially and culturally. Individual farmers involved in the focus groups and surveys will also be able to shape how they engage with policy makers and extension workers in the future and how the findings of the research are made available to them and their communities.

Colombian Policymakers. This project will identify specific policy actions that can be implemented at local and landscape scales to effectively protect forest and associated biodiversity. It will also identify optimal management of silvo-pastoral systems and their associated benefits for farmers socially and economically as well as potential impacts on the wider landscape. This will address specific policy priorities in Colombia, aimed at sustainably intensify pastures and protecting the Amazonian forests and its biodiversity.

Members of the public including consumers purchasing produce locally such as milk and meat, will benefit from higher yields, improved quality and a more resilient supply chain. Users of natural areas and wildlife enthusiasts will ultimately benefit from enhanced protection of forests and natural areas which have a cultural and social value to many of the communities in the region. Through protection of rare, endemic and iconic species, Colombia will also remain a globally prominent region for biodiversity.

Agricultural extension organisations will benefit from academic evidence that will enable them to target and develop projects that seek to educate and benefit farmers, improve their income and protect their livelihoods whilst addressing Colombia's and the wider Amazonian region's environmental challenges.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Bristol Veterinary School Activity Fund
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bristol 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 04/2020
 
Description SWDTP Higher Training Fund £1000 from SWDTP to run a workshop "Minding the gap: Exploring a novel way of doing interdisciplinary bottom-up research through institutional ethnography
Amount £1,000 (GBP)
Organisation South West Doctoral Training Cenre 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2020 
End 04/2020
 
Description Collaboration with the Universidad de la Amazonia 
Organisation University of the Amazon
Country Colombia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have contributed by working together with Professors (entomology and botany) from the University during fieldwork (collecting and identifying specimens), during which undergraduate, post-graduate and PhD students also participated. The collections we have built have remained in the University for the benefit of their academic community.
Collaborator Contribution Our partners have contributed their local expert knowledge of the invertebrates and plant communnities found in the Amazon for the benefit of our UK team.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary and involves botany and entomology. Outputs include the invertebrate collection and the plant specimens which have remained at the University
Start Year 2019
 
Description Research collaboration with Asopastoril 
Organisation Colombian Agricultural Research Corporation
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Asopastoril and Bristol have been in conversations to potentially include the Corporation within the group of farms currently associated under Bristol's Global Farm Platform initiative. Asopastoril have been trying to find international partners for their iniative to create a regional and then potentially national Observatory of Silvopastoral systems.
Collaborator Contribution Asopastoril have provided information about silvopastoral system projects in Colombia for our research project and have also linked with us to participate in our Symposium for the Annual Meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation which will take place in Cartegena, Colombia in July.
Impact The collaboration is multidisciplinary as it includes agriculture, veterinary and social science researchers.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Hay Festival, Cartagena, Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact I was one of three panellists interviewed by a BBS journalist during a session on Conservation and Research during the Hay Festival that took place in Cartagena de Indias in Colombia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.hayfestival.com/cartagena/projects
 
Description Meeting with participants to report findings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact All the farmers that participated in the project were invited to an event to listen to the project's findings, discuss them, ask questions and provide feedback. The questions and comments that emerged during the event afforded further insights for the research planned for Phase II.
Our research partner in Colombia, CIAT, and our local operative partners in the research area (Caquetá, Colombia), that is the Universidad de la Amazonía and the Centro para la Investigación en Sistemas Sostenibles de Producción Agropecuaria CIPAV were also present both to present their own research contributions to the umbrella project with which we have been working (CIAT's Sustainable Amazonian Landscapes) and to listen to our findings and engage in the discussion.
The farmers were particularly appreciative of our effort to go back to the region and report our findings as this does not always happen. Some of the results they heard they were interested in learning more about as they thought they could adapt their practices accordingly.
All participants expressed an interest in supporting the activities planned for Phase II.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Meeting with policy-makers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We invited a number of participants from government, industry and NGOs to listen, discuss and ask questions on our findings. We also presented our plans for Phase II and received insights that will steer our approach and activities in Phase II. We also received their commitment to participate in and support said activities . Participants were particularly welcoming of the entomoloy and botanic data that would support policy decision-making on one hand; and on the other, they particularly appreciated the evidence afforded by the project's social science component, which was novel to them. Some individuals were interested in learning more about our social science methodologies as they also work directly with farmers. All participants commented positively on how the project has changed their perspective that project implementation is a technical issue and now see it as necessary to incorporate social science too.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation of the biodiversity results at the BES annual conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact As part of our Symposium at the BES annual meeting in Edinburgh, Dr Michael Garratt presented the findings from the biodiversity component of our team. His presentation was titled "Silvo-pastoral systems in Caquetá, Colombia: effects on invertebrate and plant biodiversity". The audience had questions about silvo-pastoral systems.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.britishecologicalsociety.org/events/ute2019/essential-information/