Livestock and silvopastoral systems in Latin America: how to measure the greenhouse gases

Participant at the workshop on inclusion of silvopastoral (‘trees and pasture’) systems in national greenhouse-gas inventories in Latin America. Photo: World Agroforestry Centre

Looking at the readiness of national mitigation monitoring and reporting schemes and presenting greenhouse gas mitigation technology advancements in silvopastoral systems.

By Jose Luis Urrea Benitez (CIAT) and Marta Suber (ICRAF)

Most Latin American countries share a high vulnerability to climate change but also the potential to mitigate the impact of a changing climate by avoiding deforestation and improving the management of agriculture and livestock production. To speed this along, exchanges of knowledge and technologies are critical.

The Supporting Low Emissions Development in the Latin American Cattle Sector(LivestockPlus) project held one such exchange at the headquarters of International Center for Tropical Agriculture(CIAT) in Colombia.

The workshop brought together researchers from Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic and Honduras to discuss the inclusion of silvopastoral (‘trees and pasture’) systems in national greenhouse-gas inventories. They also identified how ready their countries were to implement these kinds of agroforestry practices.

The LivestockPlus coordinator, Jacobo Arango, a molecular environmental biologist at CIAT, introduced the research on the various options for eco-efficient livestock management and greenhouse-gas mitigation technologies. This included a visit to silvopastoral trial plots and to a polytunnel, which is a large tent-like tunnel of heavy-duty polyethylene fitted with end walls, which is used to measure greenhouse gases from ruminants.

LivestockPlus is being implemented in Colombia and Costa Rica, led by CIAT as a strategic initiative with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security(CCAFS). The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is a key partner along with the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center(CATIE), national ministries of agriculture, environment, forestry, risk, and development and planning, and universities in both countries.

The workshop also focused on the Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of silvopastoral systems, as part of Agriculture Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) sector, contributing to the achievement of  Nationally Determined Contributions. The participants analysed the challenges, enabling conditions, existing opportunities and successes of MRV in both national and sectorial planning to compile a regional perspective.

None of the countries in the region, with the exception of Uruguay, had made any progress at national levels in measuring, monitoring and reporting on silvopastoral systems. This lack of data can be linked to there being no official definition of silvopastoral systems and, hence, no emission factors. There is also a lack of legal confirmation or certification of the systems in the various land uses noted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Institutional difficulties are also present in some of the countries.

The workshop also established a regional network of technical experts interested in improving MRV of silvopastoral systems to ensure that their countries’ climate-change strategies included the systems’ contribution to mitigation.

The network initially met in November 2018 to generate a regional knowledge base of the processes related to the MRV of silvopastoral systems, emphasizing the challenges, new actions, and the procedures necessary to include these systems in national reports. The network will also develop a ‘roadmap’ for creating inclusive MRV systems in the region.

Watch video of the Network meetings (in Spanish, unedited)

The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.

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