European Latin-American Project for Co-Innovation of Agro-ecosystems (EULACIAS)

Research of the Farming Systems Ecology Group aims to provide scientific support for continuous and sustainable development of agro-ecosystems with special reference to organic agriculture and reduced use of external inputs in both the Netherlands and abroad. This is one of our research topics.

Agriculture is rapidly intensifying in Latin America. Intensification of local production systems often results in short-term production increases at the cost of a deterioration of the natural and financial resource base. The resulting continuous spiral of unsustainability can not be broken by incremental modifications of existing farming systems, but often requires re-designing of the overall farming system. Science can play a critical role during this process provided that rural stakeholders are directly engaged during a collective learning process. This project focuses on three case study areas in Latin America where farmers and researchers are involved in regional and on-farm innovation processes. This project links three European partners with three Latin American case study and CIAT teams. As a whole, our team draws on considerable knowledge from previous experiences in agronomy, economics and social sciences. Our team will be adopting a systems approach and by monitoring and evaluating development impacts in close collaboration with local stakeholder we aim to facilitate more efficient use of research knowledge. This entire process we refer to as “co-innovation” Via improved visualization of system components we aim to enhance interpretation of information and enable other participants to explore and evaluate alternative land use options more effectively. Separate systems will be employed for monitoring data, developing scenarios and model parameters, respectively. Farming systems modeling will involve a set of existing simulation models. In addition to generic modeling components (e.g. water and N balances) we will also develop case study specific applications (e.g. fodder balances). These tools will be critical to evaluate what-if simulations for different livelihood strategies and benchmarking, i.e. comparison of existing vs alternative farms. They will also be used to reveal technical inefficiencies and to provide a scientific basis for selecting improved systems with respect to certain objectives (e.g. reduced soil erosion, increased family income).