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Title: Positive impacts in soil and water conservation in an Andean region of South America: Case scenarios from a USAID multidisciplinary cooperative project

item MONAR, CARLOS - National Institute For Agricultural Research (INIAP)
item SAAVEDRA, ANA KARINA - Foundation Proinpa
item ESCUDERO, LUIS - National Institute For Agricultural Research (INIAP)
item Delgado, Jorge
item ALWANG, JEFFREY - Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
item BARRERA, VICTOR - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University
item BOTELLO, RUBEN - Virginia Polytechnic Institution & State University

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/3/2013
Publication Date: 1/25/2013
Citation: Monar, C., Saavedra, A., Escudero, L., Delgado, J.A., Alwang, J., Barrera, V., Botello, R. 2013. Positive impacts in soil and water conservation in an Andean region of South America: Case scenarios from a USAID multidisciplinary cooperative project. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 68:25A-30A.

Interpretive Summary: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (also referred to as Virginia Tech) has been leading a USAID SANREM project in the Andean region of South America. The project has involved several institutions in the USA (e.g. USDA-ARS), and in Ecuador and Bolivia. The project, a continuation of a prior project starting in 2004, is focused on development and evaluation of conservation agriculture production systems in this region. The areas selected are representative of a typical Andean region: the Upper Chimbo River area in central Ecuador, and Tiraque, near Cochabamba in Bolivia. Both of these watersheds were under extreme pressure from agricultural production activities, and along the hills, areas impacted by severe soil erosion can readily be found. This project is focusing on the development, testing and diffusion of sustainable conservation agriculture systems where yields could be improved and nutrient cycling could be increased while minimizing adverse impacts to soil quality and improving soil health. Conservation Agriculture is rooted in basic principles such as maintaining the surface soil cover to reduce erosion and maintain soil moisture, having a diversified crop rotation (which provides benefits such as increased yields and better nutrient cycling), and minimizing the disturbance of the soil (which contributes to increased soil organic carbon). As a part of the evaluation of these production systems, scientists are measuring soil physical, chemical and biological parameters; soil loss; and impacts on household incomes and livelihood systems. CA is slightly more profitable than traditional farmer practices. In the longer-term, as soil health improves, CA profitability will only continue to increase.

Technical Abstract: The USAID-SANREM-Virginia Polytechnic Institute project has made and continues to make an excellent impact, specifically showcasing the positive results of soil and water conservation (Barrera et al. 2010a; 2010b). This project has strong international cooperation between the USA, Ecuador and Bolivia. The project has contributed to the implementation of conservation on the ground in the Andean region of South America, based on strong partnership with local institutions, universities and farmers. Farmers have been a key component of this success by allowing the implementation of demonstration projects on their farms under local commercial farming operations. Personal visits with farmers revealed that these types of projects can contribute to the training of additional local farmers, with field days that show the benefits of these studies. These newly-implemented conservation practices are helping reduce the risk of erosion, and potentially increasing economic returns for the farmers as well as the sustainability of local systems. With the challenges we will be up against in the twenty-first century, such as climate change and growth of the human population, soil sustainability will be key in efforts to achieve food security, and soil and water conservation cross all global sites is needed. This USAID project serves as an example of positive impacts in sustainability at the farmer level (Barrera et al. 2010b).