Andean smallholder farmers face serious challenges to their soil health and livelihoods due to cropping system intensification and global change. In the proposed project, the team will investigate the ways in which fallows and other soil management strategies improve soil health and livelihoods. Recent findings from this project and others in the Andes emphasize the importance of soil gradients in determining the productivity of introduced species (legumes in particular) in improved fallows as well as in intercropping systems. Soil health innovations that are implemented during the cropping phase of traditional rotations, such as intercropping and organic residue management, have received attention globally and are practiced by farmers in the Andes, but have not been subjected to in-depth assessment in the region. Research from previous phases has contributed to understanding the dynamics of soil health restoration in fallows and pastures and have informed the development of new practices with farmers. To address growing farmer interests and expand the potential impact of their research in this new phase, the project team plans to include new options identified by farmers for improving soil health and agroecosystem productivity, including soil amendments.
Soil health is the basis of regenerative agriculture. Healthy soil allows plants to withstand stresses such as pests, diseases, drought, and frost, and increases their nutritional content. In the middle and high Andes, communities traditionally used sectoral fallows to group crops and allow soil to regenerate with native fallows for seven to eleven years. Inadequate policies, market and climate changes, and migration have led to a weakening of communal structures, and new ways to regenerate the soil are needed. Building resilient agroecological systems requires attention to areas that are normally ignored by agronomists, such as fallow fields, hedgerows, and trees. Improving fallows in mixed farming systems (crops, animals, and non-crop plants) helps farmers adapt to climate change by getting a more resilient and productive mix of plants into the ground faster at the beginning of a fallow. It also contributes to mitigating climate change by sequestering carbon through the use of perennial forages, something of urgent concern as the agriculture frontier in the Andes moves upwards and grasslands are converted into cropped lands. Household livelihoods benefit from higher recycling rates and intensified farm output.
This project is part of a thematic group concerned with landscape management for agroecological outcomes, looking at both natural and social drivers of landscape use and change. The Forage & Fallows project has led the CoP in providing concrete examples of how to move from discourse to practice in methods such as multi-environmental trials, options-by-context analysis, typologies, landscape approaches, mixed methods, participatory processes, and agroecology. Yanapai’s work has regularly been cited in research and policy settings when discussing nutrition, agrobiodiversity, and food security. The project proposes to work with national and global efforts concerning carbon sequestration with a view to payment for environmental services for farmers and communities. The project also offers significant opportunities for CCRP cross-learning and coherence by sharing principal investigators of the Soils cross-cutting project. This project may also be able to develop synergies with another Yanapai project that works with potato seed networks across highland Peru to benefit the connection with policy making at local and regional levels.
Outputs and Outcomes:
1: Research on fallows at plant and plot level
Participatory trials on improved multipurpose fallows and emerging management options.
Develop a bank of evidence-based soil management technologies that are appropriate to specific biophysical and socio-economic contexts in the Andes (identify options for specific contexts).
Model nutrient budgets for these options (based on analysis of practices and samples of farmer inputs and exports from this and other phases) to better understand the potential long-term implications of different soil management options for soil health and productivity.
Share results through farmer workshops, cross-community exchanges, and presentations at local universities and other relevant forums in the Andes.
Share lessons learned regionally and internationally via presentations at international meetings and articles in peer-reviewed journals.
Long-term health and productivity of soils in traditional cropping rotations of the region.
Agroecological intensification of smallholder cropping systems in the Andes and beyond.
Enhanced local knowledge and ability of communities to address agricultural challenges through research and experimentation beyond the duration of project.
Increased insight to inform agroecological innovations around the globe.
Objective 2: Landscapes
Socio-economic and cultural drivers of landscape change identified in the multiple communities in relation to cropping strategies.
Development of community landscape plans by local stakeholders that inform future land use and large-scale soil management decisions.
Objective 3: Advocacy and influence
Interact with multiple stakeholders (e.g., universities, conservation groups, policy makers) in each region (province).
Share findings and approaches to community engagement in international venues (e.g., conferences and journal articles).
Stronger capacity and informed policy at regional level.
Learning facilitated in other regions that are facing similar issues.