Climate hazard of concern:
Changing temperatures and weather patterns
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the ecosystem affected?:
Increasing vegetation on steep slopes stabilizes the soil, reducing the probability of landslides that may occur during the extreme weather events that are predicted. This can reduce the exposure of the tropical forest ecosystem to these impacts as well as buffering the mangrove ecosystem of the neighboring Biosphere Reserve in the lower watershed.
How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the ecosystem affected?:
The silvopastoral systems implemented by the Salto de Agua Farming Group can reduce the sensitivity of the tropical forest ecosystem to changing weather patterns that create extreme rain and storm events by protecting riparian zones and increasing vegetation along rivers and streams, particularly planting species that are more resistant to flood conditions. The changing weather patterns have already resulted in extreme rain and storm events causing severe flooding carrying sediment from upstream and often taking down trees.
How has your solution increased the capacity of the ecosystem to adapt to potential climate changes?:
The silvopasotral systems are maintaining primary forest patches, increasing secondary forest cover, and reducing deforestation. Farmers in the Salto de Agua Farming Group are committed to not creating more pasturelands but instead finding innovative fodder techniques. This increases the tropical forest ecosystem’s adaptive capacity by improving landscape connectivity.
How does your solution reduce the exposure of and buffer/protect the communities affected?:
The silvopastoral systems in Salto de Agua can reduce the exposure of pasturelands and the community to extreme rain events and flooding resulting from changing weather patterns. Increasing trees throughout farming properties can help slow the movement of water in these extreme events, increase infiltration, and reduce damage to the community. The increased vegetation also provides shade, improving microclimates and protecting the community from the rising temperatures. Some silvopastoral properties are along central streets in the Salto de Agua, adding to their ability to buffer the community from climate hazards more than just their farm alone.
How does your solution reduce the sensitivity of the communities affected?:
The silvopastoral systems greatly reduce the sensitivity of Salto de Agua to the changing temperatures and weather patterns that put their livelihood at risk. The community of Salto de Agua is highly dependent on milk production as the main source of income to provide for their families. Growing crops for food is difficult due to the natural annual variation in precipitation with a long dry and rainy season. Silvopastoral systems improve milk production year-round, providing enough feed for cows to produce almost equal amounts in the dry and rainy season and in some cases even greater production in the dry season. A farmer using conventional farming practices will experience that their milking cows produce on average about 2.6 liters per day per cow during the dry season, 3.1 during the middle season and 4 during the rainy season. A farmer who has adopted the silvopastoral practices of rotational grazing, silage, protein bank, and improving the herd’s genetics will experience that their milking cows can produce on average 7.2 liters per day per cow during the dry season, 5.3 during the middle season, and 6.5 during the rainy season. Farmers adopting only one or two of those silvopastoral practices also experience an increase in milk production across all season at varying levels. This income stability across seasonal variations greatly reduces the community’s sensitivity to the changing temperatures and weather patterns that are already creating longer droughts and more intense rains.
How has your solution increased the capacity of local communities to adapt to potential climate changes?:
According to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (2003) increasing the adaptive capacity and the resilience of a system is central to reducing vulnerability to climate change and protecting local livelihoods. The resilience of a system depends on the existence and viability of five capitals: natural, social-political, human, physical, and financial (Task Force on Climate Change, Vulnerable Communities and Adaptation, 2003). The silvopastoral systems implemented by the Salto de Agua Farming Group with the support of CONANP build adaptive capacity by enhancing these five capitals. 1. Natural capital. As a livelihood activity, the small-scale livestock production systems in the are characterized by a direct dependence on natural capital: cattle, healthy pasture and forage, healthy soil, trees, and water resources. Silvopastoral systems protect these components of this natural resource base, resulting in more sustainable livelihoods while building natural capital and increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers and the community. 2. Social-political capital. The organizational structure of the Farming Group has directly increased the social-political capital of its member, their families and the community of Salto de Agua. They now have a broader, formal, more accessible network of information and experience on which to draw in pursuit of their livelihoods and climate change adaptation strategies. This structure also increases their access to external support, markets, and government services. 3. Human capital. From environmental education to best management and business practices, trainings are a main component of the silvopasotral program. These trainings aim to enhance the skills and knowledge of community members thereby increasing their human capital. Good health, another component of human capital is also increased due to the reduction in exposure to toxic agrochemicals experienced by farmers, a consequence of the more organic, environmentally friendly practices promoted through the Farming Group. 4. Physical capital. Physical capital has been increased by the materials that conservation organizations have supplied to the Farming Group, and the equipment purchased by the Farming Group through membership fees and contributions. These include electric fencing that runs on solar power, planting tools, seeds and plants, a harvester combine and trailer, a biodigestor, and cheese factory machinery. By facilitating the implementation of silvopastoral practices, this physical capital (equipments, materials, etc.) has supported all of the additional capitals, becoming a pivotal component for enhancing livelihoods and building adaptive capacity. 5. Financial capital. Over a 10-year time frame, the silvopasotral systems created by producers in Salto de Agua are estimated to be 32.5% more profitable than conventional systems, resulting mainly from increasing milk production and providing a supplemental income source (fruit sales from orchards). The silvopastoral systems implemented by the Salto de Agua Farming Group build adaptive capacity and enhance livelihoods by supporting and increasing these five interdependent capitals. Additionally, the diversity of tree and plant species used in silvopastoral systems increase the production of fruit and hard wood, products that can be used for subsistence, or sold, in the event that traditional crops fail or cattle are starving. Farmers’ knowledge of a multitude of techniques to provide fodder for their cattle and the equipment to carry out these practices allow them to choose the best options under different climate scenarios. In addition, the many species that are used in a silvopastoral system increase overall biodiversity, creating a living seed bank for a variety of potential futures. The main area of strength for adaptive capacity lies within the close network between community members and the community’s connection to CONANP and other organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, who act as a support system providing access to labor, equipment, and technical and financial assistance. The farmers’ own philosophy of viewing failure as a learning opportunity towards success has further enabled their desire to experiment, enhancing their ability to adapt to new scenarios, providing another way to cope with climate related changes. The Salto de Agua Farming Group has a strong internal network where farmers have established work share agreements and have diversified their income sources on their own; incorporating the sale of fruit from orchards, organic fertilizer from the group-managed biodigestor and opening their own cheese factory, the Quesería Pichichi, so they no longer rely only on intermediaries to purchase their milk but can make and market their own dairy products. They are in the process of having the cheese and other dairy products certified as organic. The Farming Group’s skills and knowledge have expanded beyond raising cattle; they have taken courses on small business planning and put those skills to use in the operation of their own farm and of the Group’s shared endeavors – organic fertilizer and cheese. The Farming Group has developed into its own entity led by a rotating panel of farmers with high participation from all members. Their organizational structure ensures shared responsibilities, investments in farming equipment, and benefits of their work. The group manages their own funds to expand silvopastoral practices and solicits support from experts, politicians and other organizations. Their strong relationship with CONANP led to these results that increase their adaptive capacity to continually improve their livelihoods and confront challenges, and they maintain that relationship today.