The valley of Cochabamba is located in Bolivia at 2,500 metres above sea-level. The highest elevation of the Eastern range of the Andes Cordillera is the Tunari (at 5,035 above sea-level). In 1961 the Cordillera all around the valley was designated as the Tunari National Park, and in 1991 it was extended once more in the East and West. The National Park was to ensure the forest's survival and thereby the water supply of the large city Cochabamba as well as its surrounding communities.
The National Park itself comprises an area of 3,090 km² and around 80,000 people live in spread-out villages. Despite the designation as a national park and a law to implement forestry measures, it has not been possible to stop logging and so-called slash-and-burn agriculture.
Particularly the grounds of the park's southern slopes, which is also where the agroforestry research centre Mollesnejta is located, have degraded and become prone to landslides due to overgrazing and land clearance by fire.
The damage due to bad weather, landslides and mudslides on smallholders' fields in the National Park and its outskirts has doubled since 2011 according to the environment division of the local government. The national park authority SERNAP was therefore increasingly looking for alternative growing methods, which would minimise damages and be accepted by the smallholders.
The objective was to find a growing method that conserves the land and water, allows the smallholders to cultivate their agricultural products and at the same time preserves the National Park's biodiversity.
The "dynamic agroforestry" method fulfils all these requirements. Naturefund has been applying this method in its various international projects since 2011. Application of the dynamic forestry method quickly leads to reforestation and improved soil, whilst the smallholders maintain a similar, if not higher yield from their fields. Dynamic agroforestry initially requires a change in the method of cultivation and should therefore be advised for one or two years.
This time we had two local partners: On the one hand, AGRECOLES Andes, which have been supporting farmers with sustainable agriculture for many years. The second partner was the agroforestry network ECOSAF together with the agroforestry research centre Mollesnejta.
For more than 15 years now, the research centre Mollesnejta has been investigating how and with which plant combinations the principles of dynamic agroforestry could be applied in semiarid uplands... and there has been success! In the last ten years they managed to recreate forest and fertile soils in conditions of desert-like, sandy and rocky ground and a rainy season of only two to three months a year. Mollesnejta's know-how served as a valuable basis and helped very much to support the farmers with the conversion.
The dynamic agroforestry method was not created over night, but was already being promoted by German development cooperation in the 90s. The Bolivian project's focal areas are the tropical Alto Beni regions for Cocoa and the Yungas for coffee.
The positive results with dynamic agroforestry led to the foundation of the agroforestry research centre Mollesnejta in the uplands of Boliviain 2001. The objective of the research was to find an optimal combination of plants for the difficult conditions of the locality, being situated on hillsides at 2,800 metres height with degraded, stony grounds and asemiarid climate. Particularly the smallholders are to benefit as they can use simple and practical cultivation methods to attain a wide range of agricultural products.
The project focused on various villages on the southern slope of the Tunari National Park. This region has been particularly vilnerable to erosion and soil degradation. As there was great interest for this reforestation method, we also started to support an association of women in Sacaba, on the outskirtsof the national park, who produce organic food for an organic market in Cochabamba.
Together with the farmer's representation and the national park authority SERNAP, families were selected who are particularly affected by bad weather and climate change. We worked together with the farmers to find out how best to apply the dynamic agroforestry method and adapt it to the needs of the farmers so that it can be disseminated further in the following years.
With the third project phase, we plan to migrate another 180 families to dynamic agroforestry by the end of 2019. Help us doing so by donating trees for these families and for the nature.
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