The highland Andes have traditionally been managed with complex technical and social approaches to match the multiple ecological niches and ecotypes that characterize the area. Both biophysical and socio-economic opportunities and constraints have always influenced farmers’ land use decisions. Over the past 50 years, population growth, migration, global markets for both goods and services, modernization, globalization, agricultural policies, and global climate change have altered land-use management to the point of compromising the health of the ecosystems. These changes require adjustments, adaptations, and/ or complete rethinking of agricultural practices. Many of the sources of inspiration for adaptation come from rural communities themselves where farmers and organizations are constantly innovating. Likewise, the global knowledge base on agroecological intensification and methodologies for understanding biophysical and social processes can be leveraged to help farmers and communities make decisions.
This studentship centers on the use of landscape and plot-level modeling to conceptualize, measure, and predict farm and landscape scale agroecosystem processes, as well as to ascertain the extent to which land and water resources management practices are sustainable. The modeling is expected to help individuals, communities, and local governments understand the actual and potential effects of agriculture management practices on soil and water ecosystem services as well as on farm productivity.
This studentship is embedded in the CCRP-funded project “Diversification of Andean Agroecosystems within Plots and Farmscapes” and will help to address that project’s research objective of examining the role of farmscape composition and organization in terms of overall farm productivity and agroecosystem functioning for farming in landscapes at three sites (Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru) along a gradient of land use intensity. The study area will be the sub-catchment of a micro-river basin (of the Chambo River) in the Licto parish, Chimborazo province, Ecuador.
Outputs and Outcomes:
The research will further contribute to the understanding of current smallholder farm management practices and their impact on natural resources in the Ecuadorian Andes. It will ascertain the sustainability of these practices and the potential impacts of climate change on the socioeconomic and biophysical landscape. The project will identify and assess specific ‘improved’ smallholder farm practices to provide solutions to the challenges posed by climate change and agroecological intensification. Farmers will directly benefit from building local capacity for research and innovation, while providing options for improving soil and water resource management, in addition to enhancing climate change resilience. Research will contribute to changes in local and regional practices as well as policies regarding land-use management in the area through the involvement of local strategic partners and the development of relevant methodologies for land-use assessment in the region.