By Carla Samon Ros
Iñapari, Peru, Jun 7 (EFE).- Farmers in the Peruvian Amazon are turning to regenerative agriculture as a way to boost productivity while protecting the important ecosystem in the region.
Marcelo Daniel Flores’ family owns around 600 cows on 300 hectares (741 acres) of land on the outskirts of Iñapari, where Peru meets Brazil and Bolivia.
The 29-year-old learned traditional agriculture techniques from his family, which involved burning down 30 to 50 hectares of forest each year to access fresh pasture in an environment where soil regeneration is naturally slow.
“Before, everything would come down,” his father, Manuel Flores, tells Efe. “We worked in open fields, and the more land and fewer trees the better.”
“One head of livestock per hectare of land was the norm but now we’re doing three and a half, almost four, per hectare and we’ve got more than enough pasture.”
Behind this shift in technique is regenerative agriculture, a model of agroforestry that promotes sustainable farming that boosts soil regeneration, limits deforestation and revitalizes the surrounding ecosystem while increasing productivity and profitability.
Its approach focuses on pasture management by removing chemicals and integrating trees into grazing areas, which in turn provide a habitat for birds, primates and pollinating insects, improve soil filtration and provide shade.
“If the animal has better quality food at the right moment, it fattens up faster, produces less methane and spends less time on the field because it ends up at the abattoir sooner,” Ethel Huamán, a farming specialist from the ministry of agricultural development and irrigation, tells Efe.
Embracing this new approach, the Flores family have divided their land into 40 plots and rotate their livestock daily. This way, the pasture regenerates faster and the manure from the cows is more effective at fertilizing the earth given that the animals are concentrated in smaller areas.
It also makes herding easier for the farmers, Marcelo says.
“Before, you would have to run back and forth on horses but now with a call you can take them to their corral.”
While its benefits are plain to see, implementing regenerative agriculture in the region has its own obstacles, from financing issues to stubborn customs, Nelson Gutiérrez, a project leader for the World Wildlife Fund in the Madre de Dios region, tells Efe.
The WWF runs 10 fieldwork projects to promote the agricultural technique among farmers and civil servants.
One of the first to beneficiaries of these classes was Verónica María Cordozo, who in a period of three months installed electric fences and drinking fountains on 15 of her 130 hectares of land to reduce the impact on nearby rivers.
“It was very expensive,” she told Efe.
Gutiérrez says the estimated cost of implementing regenerative agriculture on 10 hectares of land comes in at 20,000 soles ($5,400) but insists the technique is, in the medium term, “much more profitable than to continue with what they are doing.”
The WWF and its allies Climate Group and Tropical Forest Alliance are calling on the Peruvian government to promote the farming approach.
Livestock farming is responsible for more than 50% of deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon and an estimated 35% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the organizations. EFE