Moving towards sustainable intensification in the Colombian livestock sector
In recent years, population growth and particularly a growing middle class worldwide has led to an increase of per capita consumption of animal products (beef and dairy). At the same time, cattle production is one of the activities that leads to greenhouse gas emissions by producing methane and NOx from enteric fermentation and decomposition of excrement. Therefore, it is imperative that there is a reduction of the emissions produced per unit of beef and milk so that livestock becomes a sustainable activity throughout the world.
Sustainable intensification of livestock is one of the main activities that the “Agricultural Synergies Project” is pursuing, an effort funded by the Norwegian government and coordinated by Princeton University in the United States. The project focuses in three regions: Asia (Vietnam), Africa (Rwanda) and Latin America (Colombia).
In Colombia several institutions are collaborating with Agricultural Synergies, including CIPAV, CIAT, CORPOICA, FEDEGAN, and The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR), among others, and they are conducting case studies in order to identify characteristics of livestock production systems with different levels of productivity and management throughout the country.
One of the most important outputs of the Project is the creation of a web-tool (www.agriculturalsynergies.org) which catalogues information from real and representative farms of various regions of a country (In the case of Colombia: Caribe Seco, Caribe Húmedo, Piedemonte Llanero, Altillanura, Altiplano Cundiboyacense, the region of Patía en el Cauca, the dairy producing region of Nariño, among others). With this information it will be possible to estimate dairy and meat output per unit area under various management scenarios and also calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per unit area and per dairy and meat units.
In order to capture the information for representative farms in various regions of Colombia, over the past few weeks several members of the Agricultural Synergies team, including one from CIAT, conducted 5 workshops with experts around the country and recorded information on typical production systems in particular regions.
The first workshop was conducted in Bogotá with a professor from the National University of Colombia and a scientist who works with FEDEGAN – FNG, characterizing dairy systems in the high Andean plateau of Cundinamarca and Boyacá.
The next workshop was conducted in Villavicencio and the attendees included a professor from the University of the Llanos, agronomists, and livestock producers. In this workshop they characterized the production systems in the high llanos and the lowland savannahs, where livestock is mostly raised for meat production, and the Pie de Monte which includes dual-purpose systems.
The Agricultural Synergies Team conducted the next workshop in Popayán in order to classify systems in Cauca and Nariño. This event included professors from the University of Cauca, the director of the Livestock Producers Committee, technicians from FEDEGAN – FNG, and producers who are part of local producer associations.
Next they conducted a workshop in the city of Armenia, where they characterized Dairy systems in Antioquia and the Coffee Belt. They also classified dual-purpose systems which are found in Risaralda, Quindío, and Caldas. This event also included the participation of experts from FEDEGAN – FNG and CIPAV who work in the region.
Finally the last workshop was conducted in Valledupar and characterized livestock systems in the states of Cesar, Atlántico and Magdalena. This event included experts from CIPAV and CORPOICA, and local producers.
In the end this tour across the country allowed the research team to gain a greater understanding of the meat and dairy production systems in different regions of Colombia, and also analyze the issues that these systems face when considering better management and higher productivity.
The information gleaned from the workshops will allow the Agricultural Synergies team to estimate productivity levels in each of the regions and the associated GHG emissions in each livestock system. This will then allow them to estimate the change in emissions while adopting alternative methods in the different systems and regions.
By: Jesús David Martínez (CIAT) and Amy Lerner (Princeton University)
Project website: www.agriculturalsynergies.org