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  • Agricultural research and education combine for tangible results in Latin America 

Agricultural research and education combine for tangible results in Latin America 

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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A body of water is surrounded by mountains. Photo by CATIE

In light of its standing as a regional research platform and a higher education institution of international recognition, CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) holds an undeniably important position in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The work carried out by CATIE researchers is focused on generating and disseminating knowledge, putting it into practice and encouraging uptake. From restoration to climate change adaptation and mitigation, conservation strategies and silvopastoral systems, the center’s work spans not only numerous countries but also several decades.

To mark CATIE’s official 45th anniversary this year, Environmental Livestock Unit researchers Cristóbal Villanueva and Danilo Pezo, Forest Seed Bank head Francisco Mesén and genetic resources expert William Solano spoke about key work and achievements.

Read also: CATIE celebrates 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

What is the history behind the development and use of research on silvopastoral systems at CATIE?

Cristóbal Villanueva and Danilo Pezo: CATIE’s work on silvopastoral systems started in the late 1980s, but initially the emphasis was on the use of tree fodder as a source of feed for ruminants.

Initially, most of the efforts were on native trees such as Erythrina species, Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala and Calliandra calothyrsus, as well as the introduced Morus alba. All these were managed under different silvopastoral options, mostly the traditional live fences, and intensive fodder banks and alley farming with pastures systems.

Later, emphasis was put on other woody perennial species as well as on the role of different silvopastoral options — such as the most commonly practiced scattered trees in pastures — as a means to diversify production and improve animal welfare in livestock systems, as well as providers of timber and environmental services such as biodiversity, soil and water conservation in livestock dominated landscapes.

More recently, the role of woody perennials as part of adaptation and mitigation strategies on livestock farms has been part of CATIE’s research agenda.

Team members plant seedlings. Photo by CATIE

Over the years, CATIE has been the leader in post-graduate education and training in silvopastoral systems in Latin America, contributing to strengthening the research and development capability of many education and research institutions, as well as NGOs, technical assistance providers and farmer organizations, mostly in Latin American and the Caribbean.

CATIE research findings have also been used as inputs for the design of policies tackling the livestock and environmental interphase in the region. At a global level, CATIE has shared its learnings through several publications, as well as presentations at international congresses, conferences and seminars.

Watch: CATIE: el destino para una educación superior de excelencia

How is CATIE’s Forest Seed Bank used, and who benefits from this valuable resource? 

Francisco Mesén: The CATIE Forest Seed Bank (BSF), which has existed for 51 years, is a self-sustainable commercial unit that distributes the seeds of 50 forest species as well as coffee clones of high genetic quality.

Each year BSF seeds reach more than 170 clients in 20 countries in America, Asia and Africa, supplying private companies to national reforestation programs. The BSF maintains commercial agreements with partners in Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru for seed distribution and promotion.

The seeds that we distribute come either from our own sources, from selected third-party sources, or from other seed banks in the region. In addition to strict internal quality control, we are also under the supervision of the Costa Rican Seed Certification Office, which certifies both the physical and genetic quality of our seeds.

In our training, marketing and promotion efforts, we develop our agenda in conjunction with our partners in member countries. We provide continuous advice to our clients as required, and we receive an average of 300 visitors per year to our headquarters, including politicians, producers, businessmen, technicians and students.

Read also: CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

What is the story of CATIE’s germplasm collection, and which stakeholders now benefit from its use?

William Solano: CATIE’s germplasm collections date back to the 1940s. In 1976, the germplasm bank was formally established as a center for the conservation and use of the plant genetic resources of Mesoamerica.

The collections were placed under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 2004 and two years later were under the jurisdiction of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The germplasm that CATIE conserves has worldwide relevance due to its quantity and diversity.

Different types of cacao varieties can be found in CATIE’s International Cacao Collection. Photo by CATIE

The most representative field collections are coffee, cacao, peach palm and sapotaceae fruits, while the most important seed collections are those of cucurbits, tomato and pepper. Many of the accessions are unique and not represented in collections elsewhere. The collections include accessions of wild relatives of crops, a valuable resource for future genetic improvement.

There are several examples of CATIE’s germplasm distribution to users who have promoted the economic development of new crops and helped tackle new diseases in crops of high economic value. CATIE highlighted the distribution of selected seven cocoa clones resulting from its Cocoa Breeding Program — known for their high yield, resistance to moniliasis and excellent chocolate quality (two of them were in the top 10 at the Le Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2009) — to smallholders throughout Central America.

These clones were fundamental for a key initiative of the Central American Cacao Project aimed at modernizing cocoa plantations in an integrated manner in order to improve the income and living conditions of families in the region.

The distribution throughout the region of hybrids F1 with resistance to coffee rust, which were derived from introductions in the CATIE collection, is also of great value to the coffee sector. These materials are characterized by 30 to 50 percent higher productivity than traditional varieties and have an exceptional cup quality – one of them won the Cup of Excellence competition in 2016 – as well as tolerance to adverse weather conditions such as drought, flooded soil and frost.

Also worth noting is a germplasm transfer in the 1960s, from the CATIE coffee collection to Panama, of the Geisha variety, which led to the production of a high-quality specialty coffee with a very high market value, reaching US$601 per pound. Another product of CATIE’s coffee germplasm collection is the “Nemaya” rootstock variety, which is resistant to major nematodes affecting the Central American coffee sector.

Small-scale farmers, including indigenous communities, have also benefited from native germplasm of important food crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and squash, presenting valuable agronomic traits such as nutritional quality, better taste, good adaptation to different climatic conditions and resistance to diseases and pests. CATIE makes this germplasm available to all users, in a continuing contribution to meeting the current challenges of agriculture.

Read also: Celebrating and rewarding excellence in producing high-quality cocoa: The 2017 International Cocoa Award winners

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator, and Karla Salazar, CATIE Communicator.

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  • CATIE marks 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

CATIE marks 45 years of putting knowledge into practice 

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Flower buds grow on a coffee plant. Photo by CATIE

As CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) marks its 45th year, it is continuing to build its reputation as a renowned research platform and internationally recognized education institution.

So, what is CATIE’s vision for the future of its unique combination of education, research and innovation?

Remarking on the anniversary milestone, CATIE’s Director General Muhammad Ibrahim said CATIE’s vision over the coming years would focus on offering leadership in the generation of ‘agents of change’ and in search of solutions to challenges facing the region and the world that have been emphasized in the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“CATIE has become an ally to countries across Latin America and the Caribbean as it constantly generates new knowledge and makes it available,” he said.

Read also: CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

In line with FTA’s role in enhancing the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security, and addressing climate change, CATIE has two very important programs, which link perfectly,” said Eduardo Somarriba, leader of CATIE’s Agriculture, Livestock and Agroforestry Program (PRAGA).

“One very important part of CATIE’s work in FTA has been the development of the Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape [NHSL], where CATIE has introduced a climate smart territories methodology, carried out research initiatives and supported more than 20 master’s theses,” he added.

The sentinel landscapes initiative has made rapid progress toward understanding important metrics of ecosystem health, as well as drivers of land degradation across a range of ecosystems in the global tropics. An important part of the initiative is the integration of socioeconomic surveys and ecosystem health metrics.

Meanwhile, the CATIE-MAP project has produced a range of tools and farmer resources on alternative agricultural practices related to a range of crops and livestock.

“These include coffee, cocoa, livestock, silvopastoral systems, backyard gardening and staple cereals,” said Somarriba, “and their distribution has focused on farmers and agricultural extension services.”

Cows are pictured in a agrosilvopastoral system at CATIE’s farm. Photo by CATIE

CATIE’s work in the following areas links closely with FTA’s efforts to progress sustainable development and food security and to address climate change:

  • Forest restoration of degraded land
  • Mitigation and adaptation to climate change in the forestry sector and in the framework of conservation efforts and management of ecosystem services
  • Policy and governance of multiscale management of forests, biodiversity and hydrological ecosystem services
  • Conservation strategies for forests, biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Productive efficiency and resilience of livestock based on silvopastoral systems
  • Productive efficiency and resilience of agroforestry systems with perennial crops (coffee and cocoa)
  • Carbon stocks and greenhouse gas flows in agroforestry systems and silvopastoral areas

Read also: Nicaragua-Honduras sentinel landscape on FTA

CATIE is dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, introducing the knowledge generated by its research programs. This allows students, technical staff and professionals to be exposed to the knowledge and to be able to adapt it for use in their countries,” Somarriba explained.

Indeed, CATIE ensures that the knowledge it generates is put into practice and adopted on the ground across Latin America and the Caribbean. The center’s projects implement farmer field schools as the main capacity building mechanisms to influence farmers and their families.

CATIE’s graduate school has educated over 40 professionals at master’s and PhD levels using the NHSL as a research platform. These graduates then return to their home countries where they can apply their knowledge to their work in national development and education programs.

In terms of higher education overall, CATIE has seen 2,530 professionals graduate with master’s and doctoral degrees, and has trained more than 70,000 people in various fields related to sustainable agriculture development and natural resource conservation. CATIE publications are also regularly used by academic institutions in Latin America in their educational programs.

“The center also works closely with policymakers and the governance platforms of many private subsectors — such as livestock, coffee, cocoa and forestry. CATIE’s research results support the development of public policies and private development programs through these platforms. For instance, CATIE’s research has supported the development of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA) interventions in the livestock sector in all Central American countries,” Somarriba said.

“We have built all this work jointly with key local partners, national and international, who we thank today for their cooperation and for joining in sustainable, rural and inclusive development alongside CATIE,” Ibrahim concluded.

Read also: CATIE aims to strengthen its work in environmental livestock, agroforestry, agrobiodiversity and family farming

By Hannah Maddison-Harris, FTA Communications and Editorial Coordinator, and Karla Salazar, CATIE Communicator.

  • Home
  • CATIE continues to improve people's wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

CATIE continues to improve people’s wellbeing across Latin America and Caribbean through education and research

A family poses with their agricultural produce. Photo by CATIE
Posted by

FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

CATIE provides families with information about climate-smart agriculture. Photo by CATIE

Ever since its inception in 1973, CATIE (the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center) has supported countries to enrich their rural populations’ quality of life, as well as addressing agricultural issues and improving natural resources management.

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, CATIE continues to remain focused on generating and disseminating knowledge, putting it into practice and encouraging the adoption of relevant ideas, which has led to it being known as a regional research platform and an internationally recognized higher education institution.

As a CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) partner institution, CATIE provides the program with a solid science-based approach across the diverse communities in which it engages, as well as the applicability and transference of knowledge to countries and communities through the development of projects and pilot programs.

CATIE works in food security, forest management, gender, agroforestry, value chain and agribusiness, sustainable livestock production, environmental economics, and territorial approaches. Providing solutions for development, sustainable agriculture and natural resources management in Latin American and Caribbean territories, and improving human wellbeing, have been the driving force behind CATIE’s work in the region over the past 45 years, in coordination with key national, regional, and international partners, combining post graduate education, research and innovation.

“CATIE has become an ally to the region’s countries as it constantly generates new knowledge, making it available, with the finality of facing existing challenges and achieving acquired commitments at an environmental, economic and social level,” said CATIE Director General Muhammad Ibrahim.

In terms of higher education, CATIE has seen 2,530 professionals graduate with master’s and doctoral degrees, and has trained more than 70,000 people in various fields related to sustainable agriculture development and natural resources conservation.

Through our students’ thesis and graduation projects, we make important contributions to countries of the region, giving an answer to problems and real necessities; additionally, once they have graduated and become professionals, they go back to their countries willing to work for the most vulnerable populations,” said Isabel Gutiérrez, Dean of the Postgraduate School of CATIE.

CATIE has supported cocoa producers with training. Photo by CATIE

The research itself has also had important results, positively affecting the quality of life of thousands of rural families. CATIE is seen as a pioneer institution in terms of encouraging agricultural production that at the same time allows for the conservation of ecosystem services through agroforestry systems.

CATIE has spread sustainable forest management throughout Latin American countries generated knowledge for the establishment of forest plantations, worked to simplify national policies to encourage the forest sector and provided the region with high quality forest seeds.

It has also promoted water management and conservation, working on the governance of water basins. Knowledge generated on the subject of silvopastoral systems is being used in the region as a base for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) and livestock policies for lower greenhouse gas emissions.

CATIE has conserved thousands of genetic resources for coffee, cocoa and other crops that are great importance for food security in its germplasm collections. In the case of coffee and cocoa, some of the resources have been used to generate new varieties that are more tolerant to disease, more productive and of higher quality.

CATIE has supported the elaboration of policies for countries in the region on issues related to REDD+, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and agriculture and sustainable livestock. It has generated tools and knowledge related to the environmental economy that promote policies and incentives to conserve natural resources and capture carbon.

Francisco Alpízar, Director of the Research Directorate for Green and Inclusive Development, said the role CATIE plays had been developed jointly with local and international partners in a participative and interdisciplinary way.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim noted that CATIE’s vision over the coming years would focus on offering leadership in the generation of ‘agents of change’ and in search of answers to multiple challenges facing region and the world, which have been emphasized in the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

For more information, contact CATIE communicator Karla Salazar Leiva at [email protected].


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