An Overview Of Our Solution
- Population Impacted
- Continent: North America
Local resources the community depends on, and for what purpose
Local threats to resources
Level of sensitivity
Level of adaptive capacity
Adaptive capacity to climate change is low due to the inability of the ecosystem to regenerate nutrients at a rate that would replace losses due to erosion, the undiversified sources of income in the local economy, and a lack of technical adaptation knowledge among the Azuero population. Acute impacts of climate change on livestock production will likely lead to migration, rather than adaptation, by local rancher. Adaptive capacity can be increased through reforestation aimed at recreating the natural conditions of the ecosystem, diversification of income through the sustainable harvesting of timber in addition to more efficient livestock and crop production, and technical training on climate resistant practices and technologies, including silvopasture, climate resistant crop and livestock species, and water conservation and storage.
Economic Indicators used to measure benefit
This solution produces almost no ecological costs, as the trees used in reforestation will be local species. All effort will be made to promote and facilitate chemical-free silvopasture, reducing the ecological consequences of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers. AEP will be testing the resilience of a variety of tree and plant species in an experimental garden without the use of chemicals.
Community/Social Indicators used to measure benefit
The social benefits of this initiative include improved health due to greater access to clean water with lower sediment loads caused by erosion and reduced impact of flooding on human communities. In addition, local landowners will gain knowledge of an alternative land management approach appropriate to the traditional Azuero lifestyle. Finally, the collaborative approach of this initiative, which will bring together local land owners, a host of public and nonprofit entities, and scientists will result in synergies leading to collaboration on other challenges and broad information sharing that would not occur otherwise.
The primary social benefit indicator will be the number of landowners and institutions involved in this project, including those that participate in reforestation, provide technical assistance, and attend supporting programming provided by AEP and other partners. Long-term indicators will include local health records which may show decreases health conditions associated with poor water quality.
Ecological Indicators used to measure benefit
The costs of this initiative are better seen as investments toward a more sustainable land management system. These include expenses associated with technical trainings, nurseries, seeds, legal arrangements and monitoring and evaluation expenses incurred by AEP and partner organizations. Reforestation costs approximately $1,000 per hectare, including planting and maintenance for five years. This cost is lower in a silvopastoral system as fewer trees and less maintenance are required relative to multi-strata agroforestry systems. AEP will dedicate a full-time staff person to administer this program. The time invested in receiving training and converting to silvopasture will be the primary cost borne by local landowners, in addition to the likely increase in the time spent on managing the land, as silvopasture systems are more complicated to manage than pasture. Additional expenses of the project borne by landowners will include fencing and irrigation changes.
What were/are the challenges your community faced in implementing this solution?
Economic benefits will be realized through increased yields of crops and livestock, due to improved soil quality, longer growing season for forage, and reduced stress due to the shade provided by the tree canopy. In addition, the economic value of trees will be a major long-term benefit to the local land owners, and the primary factor in the financial sustainability of this initiative. The shaded pasture land will be more attractive to tourists who can enjoy activities such as horseback riding and hiking, yielding additional income to the landowner. Finally, property values are likely to increase due to the improved aesthetics and the long-term income-generating potential of the trees.
Describe the community-based process used to develop the solution including tools and processes used
The level of sensitivity to climate hazards is also high due to deforestation and over-grazing. Over-grazing during the dry season has resulted in compacted and exposed soil that is able to infiltrate much lower amounts of precipitation relative to forested terrain and is exposed to erosion by seasonal floods. Lower infiltration rates of deforested soil make water resources highly sensitive to decreases in precipitation. Livestock and agricultural crops must be harvested earlier in drier years, lowering yields and household income. These responses to climate will become more extreme as temperatures rise, droughts become longer, and precipitation events intensify.
Climate hazard of concern
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the ecosystem affected?
The pivotal strategy for climate change adaptation in the Azuero Peninsula, and in many other tropical areas with vulnerable dry forest ecosystems, is reforestation of native, climate resilient, economically valuable tree species (e.g. Samanea saman, Platymiscium pinnantum, Enterolobium cyclocarpum, Brosimum alicastrum, Chrysophyllum cainito, etc...). Using the process described above, AEP identified multi-strata agroforestry and silvopasture to be the most appropriate reforestation techniques given the geophysical and socioeconomic characteristics of the area. Multi-strata agroforestry is reforestation that replicates the natural forest environment with trees of varying heights which maximizes the impact on biodiversity while providing shade, improved soil, and forage for livestock. A major benefit of this system is long-term income from sustainable tree harvesting. Silvopasture is the practice of combining forestry and grazing of domesticated animals by providing forage to livestock with trees whose leaves are to be consumed by livestock as additional forage. In the ideal scenario, a reforestation project on pasture land has a multi-strata area near the stream where no grazing takes place, a buffer zone of multi-strata silvopasture where grazing takes place on some of the shorter trees, and a true silvopastoral area where all planted tree species provide complimentary forage to livestock. The landowners participating in this initiative will determine which model best suits their needs and will be engaged in the long-term to assess the effectiveness of the selected model relative to traditional pasture in terms of livestock yield. The reforested parcels will result in the creation of a regenerated wildlife corridor connecting the few remaining patches of tropical dry forest in Eastern Azuero, now lost in a vast agricultural matrix, to the protected areas in Western Azuero. Special focus will be placed on riparian zones ? areas in close proximity to surface water ? where tree cover supports rich biodiversity and protects the stream bank from erosion during flood events. Riparian zones are highly vulnerable to climate change due to impacts of erosion and changes in streamflow. The reforestation process will naturally reduce soil and riverbank erosion and increase groundwater recharge by increasing infiltration of precipitation. Reduced erosion of riverbanks will improve water quality, while reduced soil erosion will contribute to nutrient retention, improving crop and livestock yield. In the long-term, forestry using economically valuable timber species will help diversify the income stream for the local population and increase biodiversity. AEP will work collaboratively with local landowners to assess their vulnerability and resilience to climate change and provide the necessary resources for successful reforestation through multi-strata agroforestry and silvopasture. An initial round of interviews with local landowners will allow us to identify those most passionate about serving as role models for their peers in the region as they transition to silvopastoral land management. In subsequent interactive consultations we will identify the participating landowners? needs and site-specific vulnerabilities to climate hazards. This information will lead to additional technical analysis, training, financial and other resources necessary to implement a successful reforestation project in each participating parcel. Starting next year, together with participating landowners, we will assess the effectiveness of silvopastoral and multi-strata agroforestry systems relative to traditional grazing. Thus, participative research is the cornerstone and the most innovative element of this initiative. Innovation The integration of silvopasture and multi-strata agroforestry into the design of a wildlife corridor is the highly innovative element of this initiative, which respects the local economy and way of life while achieving the dual objectives of climate adaption and environmental conservation. The participatory research element, which engages the local landowners and builds ownership in the reforestation project, is also innovative relative to traditional reforestation on large protected parcels. Biodiversity Impact The major biodiversity impact of this initiative will be habitat restoration for the Azuero spider monkey and many other animals and plants that depend on extensive stretches of tropical dry forest tree canopy for survival. The Azuero spider monkey is a critically endangered sub-species of spider monkey that is indicative of the health of the ecosystem and pivotal in seed dispersal of the variety of fruit barring trees of the tropical dry forest. Impact on Human Wellbeing In addition to increased crop and livestock yields from nutrients retained in the soil due to decreasing rates of erosion and improved water retention, the opportunity for sustainable tree harvesting in the long-term positively impacts human wellbeing and livelihoods. Restoration of natural habitat will also increase the tourism potential of the area, which can add a source of income independent of climate conditions. Replicability This project will serve as a case study that facilitates comparison of traditional grazing to silvopasture. If the participants of this initiative are successful in increasing soil nutrients, reducing erosion, increasing crop and livestock yields, and increasing income in the long-term through silvopasture systems, these efforts will be replicated by other landowners in the area. AEP will institutionalize the lessons learned from the initiative, share them with other interested landowners on the Azuero through outreach efforts similar to the current programming, including a library and digital resource center, printed educational guides, school programs, and lectures, and publish them in scientific journals to reach a broader global audience. Sustainability and Resilience This approach has high sustainability potential due to its positive economic impact through the diversification of economic activity (i.e. sale of timber) and increased resilience of livestock to critical drought conditions of the region?s increasingly pronounced dry season. After the initial investment in reforestation is made by all stakeholders, the additional income from increased yields and long-term income from timber sales will reinforce silvopasture as the predominant land management practice in the Azuero. Funding of AEP?s investment in this initiative will rely on individual and institutional donors and would greatly benefit from the Solution Search grant. Governance After recently hiring Dr. Carlos Navarro, who has extensive experience and academic background in agroforestry in Central America, as the Director of Agroecology and Forest Restoration, AEP is ready to develop a strategic plan for this initiative which will include input from our community partners, such as the local landowners, agricultural associations, and public and nonprofit sector partners. The responsibilities of all stakeholders will be outlined in this plan, as will the primary objectives and indicators of the project. The project?s success will be measured with a variety of quantifiable metrics, such as the ratio of forested to deforested land, soil and water quality measures, number of participating landowners and area of land engaged in the project, of success will include number of landowners involved in the project, number of trees planted and number of activities and participants trained. Video can be viewed at: http://vimeo.com/62632712
How has your solution increased the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt to potential climate changes?
Reforestation, in silvopastoral and multi-strata agroforestry land management systems, increases infiltration and decreases evaporation due to shade. This reduces the seasonal variability of water resources, reducing exposure to agricultural drought (loss of crops and livestock) caused by seasonal meteorological drought (low precipitation). Higher rates of infiltration also reduce exposure to flooding which causes soil erosion and nutrient loss.
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the communities affected?
Trees provide shade for livestock and agriculture, decreasing the sensitivity to rising temperatures and dryer conditions. The response of pasture, livestock, and crops to seasonal and prolonged drought will be ameliorated with soil that contains more nutrients and moisture during the dry season. Tree roots help bind the soil, reducing the erosive impact of floods, especially in riparian habitat, limiting the sensitivity of the ecosystem to intense precipitation.
How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the communities affected?
The reforested corridor will increase biodiversity, increasing the adaptive capacity of the ecosystem through natural selection. While all ecosystem components are equally exposed to climate hazards, such as droughts and floods, some will be able to cope better than others. By having a broader biological base, the ecosystem is more likely to survive the impacts of the changing climate. By reducing erosion, the ecosystem maintains nutrients and moisture in the soil, reinforcing the plants? capacity for coping with prolonged drought. In addition, reforested areas are able to regenerate soil lost to erosion through the decomposition of their organic matter.
How has your solution increased the capacity of local communities to adapt to potential climate changes?
By diversifying the economic base with forestry and strengthening the adaptive capacity of crops and livestock, reforestation reduces the exposure of the human communities to economic risk and food insecurity. By increasing infiltration and groundwater reforestation decreases exposure to water shortages.
Can this solution be replicated elsewhere?
The primary economic benefit indicator will be the return on investment realized by the participating landowner. Detailed information on increases in yields and income will be obtained through surveys and personal visits with the program participants. This information can be compared to the figures collected during the initial surveys to measure the impact of the initiative. Hypothetical market values of trees will be determined based on prices and biomass estimates.