Agroecological transformation of tropical livestock production through improved forages and silvopastoral systems
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Colombia
Livestock production and consumption of animal foods around the globe are currently under scrutiny, as consumers usually associate these activities to the environmental damage largely caused by extensive cattle ranching and deforestation. However, a change in the narrative is gaining track among key stakeholders giving more visibility to the how livestock foods are produced, differentiating extensive and sustainable cattle raising. Using examples from the tropical belt it can be demonstrated that sustainably managed forages with different strata (e.g., silvopastoral systems) can contribute to all the agroecological principles, mainly recycling, input reduction, soil health, animal health, biodiversity, synergy, social values, and economic diversification. Silvopastoral systems, based in improved forages, have been largely acknowledged for the potential to contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Improved feeds based on mixtures of grasses and legumes (usually local genetic resources) influence modulating the ruminants’ digestive microbiota, and hence reduce enteric methane emissions per unit product (kg meat/L milk). Moreover, in a global N fertiliser shortage, agroecological livestock production through silvopastoral systems benefit from the legumes capacity to fix N, with estimates ranging from 80 to 600 kg N per hectare per year, which avoids about 4.5 kg CO2eq per kg N than if applied via fertiliser. Currently, diverse technologies have been proposed pointing for sustainable livestock production, however, silvopastoral systems stand out among them for the potential contribution to all agroecological principles, increasing livestock productivity while providing ecosystem services, including reduction of the carbon balance of the system.
Contact Address: Jacobo Arango, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), A A 6713, Cali, Colombia, e-mail: j.arangocgiar.org