Decision support tools and technologies to assess and reverse land degradation in tropical savanna and hillside agroecosystems of Latin America.
Miguel Ayarza Sr., Edgar Amezquita, Edmundo Barrios, Marco Rondon, and Idupulapati Rao. Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, CIAT, Edificio DICTA-SAG, Segundo Piso, Modulo 224, Apartado postal 15159, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Land degradation is defined as any form of deterioration of the natural potential of land reducing its sustainable ecological productivity and its native biological richness and maintenance of resilience. This problem affects approximately 74% of agricultural land in Central America, 65% in Africa, 45% in South America, and 35% in Asia. Three major factors have contributed to limited success from public investments to reverse land degradation. First, the heterogeneity of land degradation, both in terms of the forms and causes. Second, the limited supply of sustainable land management technologies and practices that meet the particular demands and requirements of land users. Third, a lack of reliable indicators that could assess the ecological and economical feasibility of sustainable land management alternatives. These factors contributed to fragmented research, development and policy efforts. The Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT), and its research for development partners in Latin America are fostering the combination of improved information, dialogue, technology and management into decision support systems/tools to combat land degradation in tropical savanna and hillside agroecosystems. A set of land condition indicators of land degradation at multiple scales (e.g. farm to national) for improved decision-making at associated levels (e.g. farmers to ministries) have been developed as entry-points for communities to diagnose the dynamics of land degradation. In this paper we present the progress made on the development of these tools. Examples are presented on the potential usefulness of local indicators of soil quality for farmers to assess the condition of their own soil using parameters that are not only relevant for them but also meaningful for the scientific community. Advanced remote sensing techniques based on multi-temporal satellite imagery and terrain model analysis generate broad-scale accurate information of land, vegetation and soil conditions. A land-use planning tool for the Colombian savannas known as “GEOSOIL” has been developed . This tool allows decision-makers to store, consult and process soil data at several scales of resolution (plot, farm, community and country) and to make land use decisions. We have also developed a decision tree for taken better decisions on land use for different agricultural systems, and developed the concept of building up an arable layer on poor infertile Oxisols to enhance soil productivity and sustainability, however, improvement in the capacity building of stakeholders in land quality monitoring is needed for adoption of this new technologies that lead to improve soil conditions for plant growth and to rehabilitated already degraded soils.