Cattle grazing on improved Brachiaria grass pasture.
Photo: John W. Miles/CIAT

17.11.2014

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Tropical forage grasses and legumes as key components of sustainable crop-livestock systems in Latin America and the Caribbean have major implications for improving food security, alleviating poverty, restoring degraded lands and mitigating climate change. Climate-smart tropical forage crops can improve the livestock productivity of smallholder farming systems and break the cycle of poverty and resource degradation. Sustainable intensification of forage-based systems contributes to better human nutrition, increases farm incomes, raises soil carbon accumulation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Agricultural development in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) depends on how effectively the region can address a number of challenges. Climate change affects the region as a whole, but particularly Central America and the Caribbean (CAC). This is mainly due to natural resource degradation, which has made the region especially vulnerable to changes in rainfall patterns, higher temperatures and higher incidence of natural phenomena such as hurricanes and droughts. Sustainable intensification of crop and livestock production with a natural resource management focus is likely to be the best way to confront climate change, reverse land degradation, improve food and nutritional security and alleviate poverty of smallholder farmers in LAC. Climate change predictions are expected to have far-reaching consequences for livestock production in LAC, mainly via (i) increased frequency of drought in some regions and excess seasonal rainfall in other regions, with negative impacts on native and introduced forage productivity; and (ii) heat stress on animals, reducing the rate of animal feed intake, causing poor performance growth and reducing animal fertility.

Livestock have served the poor in LAC as a social safety net, providing insurance or a “bank account” for times of need.

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