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Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

Climate-smart livestock production

Production and Resources

Developing climate-smart cattle ranch in the central region of Nicaragua

Since 2004, the Livestock and Environmental Management Programme at Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Centre (CATIE) has been implementing participatory training processes in Central America with cattle producers. These processes, which are modelled on Farmer Field Schools, have promoted the adoption of silvopastoral systems and good practices to improve income, food security, ecosystem services, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. Seven dual-purpose farms (dairy producers with milked cows with calf at foot) were selected and divided into two groups: one used an innovative silvopastoral system and the other followed a traditional system. In the first group, cows were fed predominantly with improved pasture with trees, cut and carry fodder banks of forage grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and woody fodder (Gliricidia sepium and Cratylia argentea). Compared with the traditional farming system, the silvopastoral system farms had higher annual milk production per cow. The impacts of silvopastoral system innovations were clearly visible, as the farmers earned more income and more carbon was stored in the soil (Table B2.3). However, to promote the uptake of these innovative practices, sustainable participatory training processes that encourage learning by doing and incentive mechanisms (e.g. soft credits that can offer farmers loans with below-market interest rates and certification and market opportunities for green value chains) are required. To meet the goals of climate-smart agriculture, farmers themselves must use their own assessments to develop design proposals that are based on silvopastoral systems and follow good practices (e.g. efficient use and conservation of water, and manure management) and are suitable to their farm’s specific biophysical and socioeconomic conditions. Farmers using a silvopastoral system can contribute to reaching the objectives of climate-smart agriculture and improve the productivity and resilience of their agricultural ecosystem (Table B2.4).

Table B2.3.  Productive, economic and environmental performance of silvopastoral and traditional cattle farms in the Central region of Nicaragua

Indicator

Cattle ranch with silvopastoral practices

Traditional cattle ranch

Milk production (kg/cow/day)

Rainy season

7.4

4.7

Dry season

4.4

2.9

Rank of income (US$/hectare/year)

346.3 - 519.6

227.7 – 327.8

Carbon sequestration (tonne/hectare)

11.0

5.3

Source: Chuncho, 2010

Table B2.4.  Response farms with silvopastoral and traditional systems to the CSA approach functions

Variable

Cattle ranch with silvopastoral practices

Traditional cattle ranch

Food security

+3

+/-

Productivity

+4

+2

Livelihoods

+4

+2

Adaptation and resilience

+5

-1

Mitigation

+5

-1

Water use

+2

-1

Energy use

+3

-1

External inputs

+4

-2

Ranking -5 to +5

Source: Chuncho, 2010