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Farmer Field Schools that change lives and restore the Peruvian Amazon

  • A sustainable model improves the family economy and promotes forest conservation through regenerative livestock farming. 
  • More than 200 farmers from the southern Peruvian Amazon, including men, women and young people, have been participating in the "Alliance for Regenerative Cattle Ranching in the Peruvian Amazon" program.
  • On World Health Day, we emphasize the importance of sustainable processes that improve public and environmental health and ensure food safety. 

During the last decade, the Peruvian Amazon has been threatened by increasing deforestation and forest degradation caused by various activities such as illegal logging, agriculture and cattle ranching with unsustainable practices. According to the latest report of the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), it is observed that in 2021, in the southern Madre de Dios region, the impact of agricultural expansion has exceeded gold mining (MAAP, 2022). Also within the agricultural sector, livestock activity is responsible for 35.5% of greenhouse gas emissions (MINAM, 2019), increasing the vulnerability of ecosystems to climate change, and putting public and environmental health at risk. 


To confront this issue, the "Alliance for Regenerative Cattle Ranching in the Peruvian Amazon"(AGRAP) was created, an initiative that seeks to recover and regenerate the Amazon forests.  Through sustainable practices in agriculture and cattle raising activity in Madre de Dios. Also, the activities included gender, family, and social inclusion. In this way, it seeked to reduce the impacts of deforestation and promote the recovery of degraded soils in our Amazon.


Today we celebrate theWorld Health Day, an important date to reiterate the importance of seeking for sustainable alternatives, such as good agroecological practices that mitigate the damage caused by agrochemicals, and the need of promoting organic practices that are beneficial to human health through sustainable processes, starting with the grass consumed by the animals.


Why regenerative cattle ranching? 


The cattle raising in the Peruvian Amazon is one of the main economic sources for local families, whose work contributes to regional and national food security. However, this sector is one of the main causes of deforestation, caused by inadequate agricultural practices and the excessive use of chemicals that disrupt the ecological balance of Amazon ecosystems. 


In response to this situation, the AGRAP initiative, promoted by Climate Group, Tropical Forest Alliance, WWF Perú and WWF UK; thanks to the financial support of the UK PACT Program of the United Kingdom; and the institutional support of the General Directorate of Cattle Raising of the Ministry of Agriculture, the Regional Government of Madre de Dios, is committed to the implementation of an agroecological system that allows soil recovery without affecting the level of productivity of cattle raising. All of these is possible thanks to the strengthening of capacities that promote cattle raising practices with a sustainable approach.


Nelson Gutierrez, WWF Peru's Forest Landscape Planning specialist, emphasized that: "Throughout the project, agroecological practices and techniques were promoted, such as the use of forest microorganisms, biofertilizers, natural pesticides and silvopastoral systems that will allow producers to use fewer hectares of forest and natural resources for livestock production, reducing pressure on the forests”. 


In addition, to achieve its objectives, AGRAP has proposed an education and training program called "Field Schools for Regenerative Cattle Raising (ECAs)”, aimed at farmers and agricultural professionals in the provinces of Tambopata and Tahuamanu in Madre de Dios. "Thanks to this program, I have been able to see results on my farm; with the change in the diet, my animals have a better coat and we use fewer resources for our production," said Niflen Velásquez, a cattle farmer from the province of Tambopata in Madre de Dios.


An innovative proposal


The Field Schools (ECAs) were created based on the methodology established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to strengthen the capacities of agricultural producers. From the beginning, the project addressed the needs of the producers themselves, who expressed their main concerns in various workshops, which served as the basis for structuring the three programs that the ECAs now have: Sustainable Cattle Ranchers, Women Cattle Ranchers and Cattle Ranchers of the Future.


Through a gender and youth approach, the project has promoted the empowerment and involvement of women in the cattle raising activity strengthening their capacities, both in the agricultural and financial fields, since it is a family activity, which will be transmitted, and its success depends on the involvement of women and young people. 


These ECAs  are based on agile and flexible methodologies; they also have a practical approach that allows producers to learn from experience with resources from their own farms and put it into practice in their own spaces.


"Regenerative farming gave us another vision and the motivation to start a business and fight for our financial independence," said Verónica Cardozo, a rancher from the province of Tahuamanu in Madre de Dios.


One of the main objectives of the project is to integrate the whole family into the cattle raising activity, so that future ranchers will continue applying these practices and thus continue to promote the recovery of the Amazon forests.


"Beyond making this activity more profitable, here we try to apply new ecological practices to take care of my home, we always try to be good with our own space," said Sharmely Hilares, daughter of Mauro Hilares, a cattle rancher from the province of Tambopata in Madre de Dios.

To this date, this project has managed to implement 10 ECAs in the Madre de Dios region, with 100 workshops attended by more than 200 producers, including men, women and young people, who have shown a real commitment to the conservation of their own space.


Also this process has been scaled up to the regional level through the strengthening of the Technical Table for Livestock (MTG), a space for dialogue and consensus-building, where ECAs leaders (including women and young people), the state and private sectors discussed the main problems of the cattle raising sector and seek solutions together. To this date, the MTG is building its Strategic Plan in order to have concrete actions and a roadmap for the short, medium and long term.

Finally, upon completion of this project, it is expected that this model can be replicated in different parts of the country and allow producers to access new business opportunities with a quality product in the market and continue strengthening their economy with a sustainable approach, because as Juan Esteban Serna, a specialist in Regenerative Cattle Raising, highlighted: "It is important to start today the changes for a cattle raising that cares for the planet, that organizes production systems in the field for the good of the environment and food security, because without a field, there is no city".



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