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High in the mountains of Veracruz, Mexico, a small cooperative is “farming carbon” — practicing agriculture in a way that fights climate change while simultaneously meeting human needs. Although these practices are used by millions of people around the world in some way, people in Western nations are largely unfamiliar with them, and there is little coordinated support to encourage farmers to adopt them. But if supported, implemented and developed on a global scale in conjunction with a massive reduction in fossil fuel emissions, these “carbon farming” practices — a suite of crops and practices that sequester carbon while simultaneously meeting human needs — could play a critical role in preventing catastrophic climate change by removing carbon from the atmosphere and safely storing it in soils and perennial vegetation.

The cloud forest region of Veracruz, Mexico, is a humid tropical highland ecosystem that combines a mostly temperate canopy of trees such as oaks and hickories encrusted with epiphytic ferns, orchids and bromeliads with an understory of mostly tropical vegetation such as cannas, wild taros, passion fruits and tree ferns. But the cloud forest is disappearing. Between 70 and 90 percent of it has been deforested, and what remains is highly fragmented, with only tiny pockets of old growth. Much of the former forest is degraded pasture.

Many people in this region are farmers. Cattle and coffee are the primary products. Neither provides much income, and cattle farming as practiced degrades the soil.

Ricardo Romero of Las Cañadas, the small cooperative described above, is working to develop food production systems that provide a complete diet while incorporating as much of the ecosystem function of the cloud forest as possible. Such systems could also serve as corridors to reconnect fragments of intact forest. And it could do all this while sequestering impressive amounts of carbon.

Romero and his team are doing something very important beyond practicing small-scale sustainable agriculture, fostering community self-reliance, creating jobs, improving biodiversity and bringing degraded land back to life. In 1988 Romero began managing the site for pastured cattle. Over the ensuing seasons, he observed the continued degradation of the soils and ecosystem functions. Degraded soils give up much of their carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. In 1995 he sold his cows and undertook an impressive ecological restoration effort, propagating and planting 50,000 native trees on 60 hectares (148 acres) while allowing another 40 hectares (99 acres) to regenerate naturally. This was the beginning of an ecotourism enterprise that included tours of an awe-inspiring old-growth cloud forest.

Romero also planted native trees on 22 hectares (54 acres) of the remaining pasture and carefully reintroduced cattle. This system, called silvopasture, combines livestock production with the ecological benefits of trees, including soil regeneration.

Romero and his team are doing something very important beyond practicing small-scale sustainable agriculture, fostering community self-reliance, creating jobs, improving biodiversity and bringing degraded land back to life. These same practices sequester carbon, making Las Cañadas a showcase of some of the world’s best climate mitigation techniques.

read more original article Ensia


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Date: 2016-03-10


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