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  • CATIE presents results on sentinel landscapes in Nicaragua-Honduras

CATIE presents results on sentinel landscapes in Nicaragua-Honduras

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Photo by CATIE

One of the most innovative approaches from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA) is the establishment of a set of ‘sentinel landscapes’.

These have formed part of a global analysis of networks and helped to understand issues and processes relevant to ecosystems worldwide.

A sentinel landscape is a geographic area or set of areas bound by a common issue, in which a broad range of biophysical, social, economic and political data are monitored, collected with consistent methods and interpreted over the long term.

CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), in conjunction with FTA, has coordinated a Sentinel Landscapes initiative since 2012. The long-term data are essential for addressing development, resource sustainability and scientific challenges, such as linking biophysical processes to human reactions and understanding the impacts of those reactions on ecosystems.

CATIE – a regional center dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture, and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, and a strategic partner of FTA – recently held four workshops for 164 participants from 45 organizations representing government, academic, productive sectors and NGOs.

The workshops, held on Nov. 5, 7, 9 and 27, 2018, focused on presenting the results and advances of the Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape initiative and were held in the cities of Matagalpa and Siuna in Nicaragua and Catacamas and La Ceiba in Honduras. The Nicaragua Honduras Sentinel Landscape is characterized by a variety of land uses. Tree cover is therefore diverse, competition for land is high, and speculation and renting land are common, but these arrangements drive deforestation, hinder long-term investments and exacerbate land degradation.

Watch: Analysis and monitoring of deforestation dynamics in FTA sentinel landscapes

The gatherings aimed to provide a space for the exchange of information between decisionmakers and key actors in the sectors of environmental management, forest management, protected areas, livestock, cocoa, coffee and biodiversity.

Around 64 participants from 45 organizations representing government, academic, and production sectors as well as some NGOs updated their knowledge of the Sentinel Landscapes initiative, exchanging information on their projects and activities, which served to improve levels of coordination among participating organizations.

Photo by CATIE

Since the initiative began, CATIE students have conducted valuable thesis studies that have contributed to improving knowledge and research methodology in the sentinel landscape.

The Nicaragua-Honduras Sentinel Landscape is a mosaic of forests, agricultural lands, cattle ranches and agroforestry systems, covering 68,000 square kilometers, including two biosphere reserves and 13 protected areas.

“This landscape also contains the largest forest area in Central America,” said Norvin Sepúlveda, CATIE’s representative in Nicaragua.

Watch: CIFOR’s Robert Nasi on Sentinel Landscapes

The initiative develops and implements a standardized matrix that includes a set of indicators and livelihoods to monitor landscape sustainability in a wide variety of cultural, institutional and environmental settings.

Sepulveda also indicated that socioeconomic and biophysical baselines have been developed in conjunction with universities and local organizations.

José Manuel González, CATIE representative in Honduras, mentioned that it is important to make these databases available to organizations, to continue with studies and monitoring, as well as to strengthen local and national alliances.

In this sense, Alan Bolt, coordinator of the Collaborative Management Committee for the Peñas Blancas Protected Area and director of the Center for Understanding Nature, stated that CATIE’s support, through the initiative, had been important for the institutionalization of the committee and the thesis studies carried out by students have improved research methodology.

Indeed, sentinel landscapes can provide a common observation ground where reliable data from the biophysical and social sciences can be tracked simultaneously and over time so that long-term trends can be detected, and society can make mitigation, adaptation and best-bet choices.

By Priscilla Brenes Angulo, CATIE Communication Assistant, first published by CATIE.

For more information, contact Norvin Sepúlveda, [email protected].

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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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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.

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  • Training a new generation of Congolese forestry researchers

Training a new generation of Congolese forestry researchers

A young man studies in the botanical gardens at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR
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FTA COMMUNICATIONS TEAM

A young man studies in the botanical gardens at the University of Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), education initiatives are transforming the classroom experiences of aspiring researchers.

Among the innumerable casualties of the decades-long series of conflicts and instability in the DRC, education is one of the most overlooked. Even now, the amount of research into the wartime impact on the country’s education system is very limited — but one thing is certain. If, for decades, going to school posed more safety risks for children than staying at home or in hiding, achieving further degrees was out of the question.

As the fourth most populous country in Africa (and second largest by size), the DRC is now making its way toward recovering its social and economic health, and educating its people is an increasingly crucial component to success. Only with empowerment through knowledge and capacity development can the Congolese, and the research and development organizations and businesses that employ them, impact the growth of the country — and the sustainable use of its natural resources and landscapes.

Making up for lost time

The DRC has the world’s second-largest area of contiguous tropical forests after Brazil, and those forests are distinguished by their rich biodiversity. But, there has long been a lack of trained personnel to care for and manage them properly. In 2005, the country’s entire forestry research cadre comprised just six people with Master’s degrees; in comparison, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) employs more than 8,500 PhD holders. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), has since trained 115 Master’s students and 15 PhDs.

Goods are seen for sale on the banks of the River Congo between Kinshasa and Lukolela, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR

Learning tools

University of Kisangani (UNIKIS) Rector Prof. Dr. Toengaho Faustin Toengaho says his vision is “to serve the needs of the Congolese society.” To accomplish this, he has proved an exemplary policy champion of the curricula reforms, such as an innovative Master’s-level natural and social science curriculum and an international PhD program. Both programs align capacity-building efforts with the national License, Maîtrise, Doctorat initiative (Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD program, shortened to LMD) in a bid to improve land governance in the future.

UNIKIS now has partnerships with universities and research organizations in France, the United Kingdom, Canada and Belgium, and in-classroom innovations and novel teaching methods continue to heighten the impact of these programs. There’s now an electronic library, joint local and international supervision of students, UNIKIS staff trainings, article-based thesis requirements and an annual Science Week event. The Ministry of Higher Education has since adopted a similar model to Science Week and all the universities and faculties in the country promote scientific research and innovation.

To further aid student growth, a local “accompanying committee” has tracked student progress and helped students develop scientific writing skills, public speaking skills and the confidence to submit their research to publications. Since 2013, students have submitted 31 articles to international peer-reviewed journals. Perhaps the work of Congolese students will influence not just their own country, but others as well.

By D. Andrew Wardell and Gabrielle Lipton, originally published at CIFOR.org

Further Reading

  • Molinario, G., Hansen, M.C. and Potapov, P.V., 2015. Forest cover dynamics of shifting cultivation in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a remote sensing assessment. Environmental Research Letters 10
  • Nackoney, J., Molinario, G, Potapov, P., Turubanova, S., Hansen, M.C. and Furuichi, T., 2014. Impacts of civil conflict on primary forest habitat in northern Democractic Republic of Congo, 1990-2010. Biological Conservation (2014) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.12.033
  • Zhuravleva, I., Rurubanova, S., Potapov, P., Hansen, M., Tyukavina, A., Minnemeyer, S., Laporte, N., Goetz, S., Verbelen, F. and Thies, C., 2013. Satellite-based primary forestry degradation assessment in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 2000-2010 Environmental Research Letters 8 (2013) http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024034

This research forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and was supported by the European Commission, Global Climate Change Alliance (Forests and Climate Change in the Congo) and European Commission Delegation-Kinshasa (11th European Development Fund, DRC).


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