The project will strengthen research and human capacity at USFX to support sustainable development in rural areas in Chuquisaca, more specifically in Serranía de Iñao. This region faces increasing problems with deforestation, erosion and depletion of biological resources mostly due to: 1) inappropriate crop cultivation practices leading to abandonment of land and 2) uncontrolled grazing by free-ranging domestic animals. Farmers subsist on income from crop production and animal husbandry supplemented by extraction of natural resources. The challenge local communities are facing is to turn the system biologically and economically sustainable. The BEISA3 research programme at USFX will provide the scientific basis for achieving this goal. The BEISA3 component 1 focuses on diversifying cropping practice to increase productivity and keep land in cultivation for longer time; component 2 focuses on changing existing grazing practices; and component 3 studies the potential of commercialising economically promising natural plant species to generate additional income. Capacity building at all levels is an integrated element of the research project. Courses combined with the research programme will provide research based training of students. The project will adopt a participatory approach involving the local communities in planning and execution. An explicitly formulated communication strategy for BEISA3 ensures participation, dissemination and application of the projects results.
Project Completion Report:
A significant and long-lasting outcome of the project is the capacity building at USFX. Whereas the research focus previously was on biodiversity and plant biology BEISA3 has changed the research focus to agronomy and agro-forestry. As a consequence the Faculty of Agronomy established a new institute with specific focus sustainable farming and food security (Institute of Agroecology and Food Security). This ensures that the activities initiated as part of BEISA3 will be embedded in USFX and can be expected to have a significant impact on the future research agenda. This development is further supported by the fact that the four MSc students trained through BEISA3 all have some kind of connection to the new institute. Another significant result is a much stronger relationship between researchers at USFX, local agricultural advisers and the farmers in the rural areas than hitherto, and with the new research focus of the university this will hopefully guarantee continued progress in Serranio de Iñao. Finally having BEISA3 as a common project the links between the main campus in Sucre and the branches in Monteagudo and Muyupampa have been strengthen. Numerous demonstrations trials on diverse topics like crop rotation, green manure crops, crop varieties and pest management has been an eyeopener to many of the local farmers and there seems to be no doubt that the project will leave a lasting imprint on cropping practices in the region. Several demonstration trials on novel agro-forestry practices were initiated but due to the time-frame of such systems the outcome is not yet known but I am convinced that some of these practices will be adapted by the farmers to minimise soil erosion but also to reclaim land abandoned due to soil erosion.