CIAT Annual Report 2018

Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes

Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes: New research area on the rise

The Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes (ASL) Research Area provides the science needed to sustainably intensify agriculture while simultaneously restoring degraded lands. ASL works toward this goal through three linked research themes: soils and water management, landscape restoration, and the study of ecosystem services and environmental impacts. This research can improve livestock management, maximize food production and provide ecosystem services to communities in ways that are efficient, environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive.

2018 witnessed the creation of this new and exciting research area at CIAT. Our team signed a series of landmark agreements, including SERVIR-Amazonia, in which CIAT is the lead implementing partner. Our researchers began tackling the problem of cadmium in cacao in the Andes, and we continued trailblazing land restoration projects across the Americas, Africa and Asia.

SERVIR-Amazonia: Connecting space to village

CIAT was selected as lead implementing partner for SERVIR Amazonia, a $9M USD project funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that taps NASA’s wealth of satellite data to implement land-management strategies on the ground. This five-year project, co-designed with CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area (DAPA) and partners across the Amazon basin, is part of a global initiative to connect space to villages by putting geospatial information into the hands of stakeholders that need it the most.

Sustainable Amazon

The International Climate Initiative (IKI) awarded CIAT two new projects in Colombia and Peru. Built on previous IKI projects led by CIAT in the Amazon, the initiatives are designed to scale up sustainable land use practices in deforested areas.

Agua de Honduras – Water of Honduras

In western Honduras water is scarce and most farmers practice rain-fed subsistence agriculture. To have better information to manage this vital resource, CIAT, in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Honduran government, implemented a Water Planning System for local organizations and municipal governments. The system provides hydrological data for current and future climate scenarios, and data on vegetative cover and water demand to facilitate water management decision-making.

Evaluating land restoration in LAC

Due to deforestation, agriculture, mining and drilling, millions of hectares of land across the globe are degraded. Various initiatives, framed around the Bonn Challenge, are already working to restore at least 350 million hectares by 2030, but the potential and the progress of restoration projects are not fully understood. An analysis by CIAT’s ASL team of 150-plus restoration sites across Latin America and the Caribbean shows what is working and what is not. This ongoing research will help governments, donors and civil organizations achieve restoration goals.

Various initiatives, framed around the Bonn Challenge, are already working to restore at least 350 million hectares by 2030

Rice in Colombia

Irrigated rice production systems are important to livelihoods in Colombia. However, they are a source of greenhouse gases and are vulnerable to water shortages and high temperatures. ASL is implementing a new research project funded through the Regional Fund for Agriculture Technology (FONTAGRO) with partner organizations in Colombia (FEDEARROZ), Chile (INIA) and Perú (UNALM). The project aims to compare socioeconomic and environmental impacts of continuously flooded rice production systems with water-saving practices that eliminate the need for continually flooding fields. With proper implementation, these practices can save water, reduce greenhouse gas emission and maintain field productivity.

Soil for carbon capture

Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases. How can these countries achieve food security and reduce emissions from growing food? Restoring degraded soils and protecting those in good condition are key. This study, based on research in Ethiopia, Kenya and India, shows the carbon-sequestration potential for soils under different climate-smart agriculture practices.

Cacao for Peace in Colombia

As part of Colombia’s peace agreement that ended a 50-year internal armed conflict, cacao (the main ingredient for chocolate) was chosen as a viable alternative to replace illegal crops. CIAT’s participation in the Cacao for Peace project involves research for optimization of cacao production in Colombia as part of a project led by USAID and USDA.

Sharing soils data

Data sharing is essential to cooperation among institutions with similar development agendas. In Ethiopia, Africa’s second largest country by population, CIAT implemented a task force to share data on agronomy and soils. To institutionalize this initiative, CIAT and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), which leads the nation’s agricultural research agenda, agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding and to house this initiative at EIAR’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital.

Africa RISING involves multiple CGIAR research centers including CIAT, which leads the program’s landscape restoration initiatives in Ethiopia.

Africa RISING – Ethiopia

Sustainable intensification of mixed-crop livestock systems is key to better food security, improved livelihoods and a healthy environment. As part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative to address hunger and food security in sub-Saharan Africa, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supports Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation, or Africa RISING. This program involves multiple CGIAR research centers including CIAT, which leads the program’s landscape restoration initiatives in Ethiopia. Our work focuses on the implementation of land restoration activities and the development of a national land-degradation assessment program using remote sensing data and on-the-ground research.

Ethiopia’s watershed classrooms

CIAT’s landscape restoration projects in Ethiopia have created ‘’watershed classrooms” where farmers, policymakers and researchers can learn how to replicate sustainable land management strategies in other places, including neighboring countries. Officials from Kenya and Tanzania visited restoration sites in Ethiopia with the goal of implementing similar transformational activities in degraded landscape in which they are investing.

“Green manure” to restore farm soils

What is even better than real manure for fertilization? Green manure! This is a term used to refer to plants that grow on degraded soils and help restore soil carbon, organic matter and nutrients, which, in turn, can make farmland more productive without organic or chemical fertilizers. CIAT scientists are studying the best crops for rehabilitating land in Benin and Western Kenya to provide practical information to landowners and policymakers about environmentally friendly and inexpensive ways to improve farm productivity.

Kenya: 15 year study shows the benefits of conservation agriculture

Most traditional agriculture involves regularly tilling soil, which leads to loss of carbon, organic matter and nutrients. Conservation agriculture (CA) seeks to reduce tillage and restore degraded soils. A 15-year study in western Kenya led by CIAT shows that conservation agriculture is a better bet than conventional tillage, leading to long-term benefits to soil health and farm productivity.

Marcela Quintero
Director, Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes

CIAT is a CGIAR Research Center

Was edited and compiled by CIAT Partnerships and Communications

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