Ecological agriculture an alternative to climate change
As revealed by a study carried out in two townships of the Province of Valle del Cauca showing that agro-ecological farms as production units have greater biodiversity and capture more carbon than conventional farms.Bogotá D. C., 17 de julio de 2015 — Agencia de Noticias UN-
The network of country folk agro-ecological networks of the Province of Valle del Cauca has received support and training from UNal-Palmira. Photo: Unimedios archives.
Small ecological farmers of the Province of Valle del Cauca sell their agro-ecological products at their own farmers markets.
According to ICA there are close to 40,000 hectares (99,000 acres) of lands with these types of products.
According to the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA, for its Spanish acronym) there are approximately 40,000 hectares (98,840 acres) of lands planted for these types of products. However, ecological agriculture despite being beneficial for the land and a good alternative in face of climate change is still in its beginnings due to lack of public policies to foster this type of productive model.
As a matter of fact and due to this lack of governmental support some small farmers decided to form associations and have had a network of agro-ecological markets for ten years in 10 municipalities of the Province of Valle del Cauca, such as Cali, Buga, Tuluá, Sevilla, Cartago, Roldanillo, Andalucía and Restrepo.
This network has received support and worked together with UNal-Palmira through solidary extension projects with the purpose of contributing to highlighting these ecological services. Members have participated in seminars entitled, “Science, Meetings and Knowledge”; furthermore there have been several research projects that have demonstrated the benefits of agroecology.
As a result of these projects there have been more sightings of wild birds, presence of domesticated birds and greater agro-biodiversity besides production on agrochemical free foods.
Furthermore Zootechniques student Óscar Ríos and Plant Genetic Resources master’s candidate Angela Suárez discovered 13 breeds of creole chickens and 196 plant species as opposed to conventional farms which only had one species of chicken and 60 plant species.
The most recent research project was carried out by UNal Faculty of Agrarian Sciences Professor Diego Iván Ángel, whom is also a candidate for a doctorate in Agro-Ecology. He has had support from Soil master’s candidate, Sebastián Mora.
For their thesis project, the researchers chose agro-ecological, conventional farms and secondary forests to determine the differences based on three indicators: agrobiodiversity, knowledge linked to the preceding and carbon capturing.
Farm selection was carried out with support from the network and initially chose 17 farms. And from there they chose those with areas between 1 and 5 hectares (2,471 and 12,355 acres) located in the flat area of Andalucía and the foot hills and hills of Buga.
Some significant preliminary data show that agro-ecological farms have up to three and four times more types of plant species than conventional farms; they also reported 5 and 6 different species uses, while conventional farms had none.
They also hope to quantify the amount of carbon capturing in these farms. Therefore they are analyzing biomass carbon of fallen leaves and soil in order to compare with conventional farms and secondary forests. Up to now they have discovered that agro-ecological farms capture two to three times more carbon, which turns them into an alternative to climate change.
Despite the benefits of this type of agriculture Ángel considers it has not been recognized by the government which should create public policies to strengthen them. Furthermore he says ecological agriculture plays an important socio-economic, cultural and environmental role, as it is a way to invigorate local economies, improve water management and help soil preservation.
Regarding production costs, farmers have already seen the benefits. For instance the owner of a farm which has 14 hectares (34.5 acres) and several types of crops including corn, cacao, plantain, cilantro and others says that a ton of organic fertilizer is economically beneficial, as it only costs him close to COP $70.000 (US $26.07) while agrochemicals could cost him up to COP $ 150,000 (US $55,87).
Read the article in its entirety in Spanish at: http://www.unperiodico.unal.edu.co/dper/article/fincas-agroecologicas-capturan-mas-carbono.html