Alternative production systems such as pastures with trees, live fences, agroforestry and silvopastoral systems represent a significant potential as a strategy to mitigate the environmental impact of cattle ranching, to improve productivity, promote product diversification on farms, conservation biodiversity and contribute to adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Between 2002 and 2007 the project "Integrated silvopastoral approaches to ecosystem management" showed positive impacts on forest, biodiversity and soils conservation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing productivity in cattle farms that implemented silvopastoral systems and allocated areas of their land for the conservation of natural ecosystems. This project was financially supported by the GEF - World Bank and coordinating by CIPAV, CATIE and NITLAPAN in Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, respectively. Currently (2010-2017) is operating the “Colombia – Mainstreaming Sustainable Cattle Ranching" project, led by the World Bank, Colombian Association of Cattle Ranchers - FEDEGAN FNG, CIPAV, The Nature Conservancy, Fondo para la Acción Ambiental, Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture, and has financial support from the Global Environment Facility - GEF and the Department of Energy and Climate Change - DECC UK. This initiative is evaluating different instruments for environmental and productive transformation of cattle ranching in Colombia.
While there is ample evidence on the environmental impacts generated by cattle ranching, on the other hand is well known the importance of this activity globally, according to the FAO, provides livelihood to more than ,000 million poor people in the world. Cattle grazing is not good or bad per se, it needs to be analysed in the context where it happens.
The main instruments promoted for changes in land use have been: i) technical assistance and ii) payment for environmental services. Conceptually it is intended that the incorporation of agroforestry systems and forest conservation in cattle farms become a tool for rehabilitation of degraded lands, but with an approach to integrate agricultural landscapes to protected areas through corridors of connectivity
Payment for environmental services and technical assistance were successful in incorporating environmentally friendly practices on cattle farms, biodiversity research at the farm and landscape levels, need to implement pilot farms, importance of dialogue in scenarios construction of public and private policies, among others. Some challenges: producers selection process, monitoring land use changes, high dispersion of producers, producer´s access to sources of financing, availability of seedlings, training of technical staff in the field.
Example in the 110 farms that participated in the project "Integrated silvopastoral approaches to ecosystem management", were found 193 species of birds (26.2% of conservation concern), 232 morpho-species of ants, 71,887 tons were caught incremental CO2 eq. In terms of production, increased stocking rates from .8 to 2.5 Animal Units ( AU = 450 kg), milk production increased 20% and meat production improved by 80% per ha/year
The Sustainable Cattle Ranching project in Colombia aims to generate changes in land use on ,000 farms that benefit from the project instruments (technical assistance, payment for environmental services, among others), for incorporating 63,000 ha under friendly production systems with environment, including 15,000 hectares of conserved forest in cattle farms; reduction 2 million tons of CO2 eq. in greenhouse gas emissions from avoided deforestation and forest degradation and increase in carbon sequestration at the farm-level through adoption of environmentally-friendly silvopastoral systems in participating farms. The project also seeks to reduce poverty, improve the productivity of the participating farms, increase connectivity at farm and landscape levels and strengthening institutions subsector and dissemination and M & E efforts contributing to the broader adoption of environmentally-friendly silvopastoral systems in Colombian cattle ranching.