Image credits: Markus Spiske
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News Article

Guanajuato Joins the Fight Against Land Degradation

By Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Mon, 08/16/2021 - 11:38

Mexico’s northern states are grappling through one of the most intense and widespread droughts of the last three decades, which has come to devastate water intensive industries like agriculture and livestock. Despite the sobering tone from the United Nation's IPCC report which warns straightforwardly: it is code red for humanity, ingenuity from three brothers in Luis de la Paz, Guanajuato, is offering the world some hope after developing a way to combat land degradation and increase soil carbon storage.   

Land degradation, the deterioration or loss of the productive capacity of soil, impacts farmlands worldwide and threatens the food security of almost 40 percent of the world's population, according to the Global Environment Facility. Globally, scientists warn that 24 billion tons of fertile soil are being lost each year and if it continues, 95 percent of the earths land surface can by degraded as early as 2050. In Mexico, more than 60 percent of farmland has been severely degraded, while an additional 30 percent is in varying stages of ecological decay due to unsustainable agricultural practices coupled with exacerbated drought conditions, says the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).

Geographic specific data from the UN highlights that Mexico is highly vulnerable to hydro-meteorological events which can manifest as intense droughts, rain and tropical cyclones. In combination, these events threaten to exacerbate an already alarming trend in land degradation. However, Jose Flores Gonzales and his two brothers have developed new technique, called the Agroforestry Zamarripa System, to restore degraded land to productivity and enhance carbon storage using two plants commonly found in semiarid lands: agave and mesquite. These intercrops, which are adapted to arid climates, grow well under drought conditions and do not require irrigation or chemical inputs. These low-input cost crops promise to restore the ecosystem, stave off soil erosion and potentially revive agricultural communities that have fled as degradation has steady increased throughout the region.

The system plans to support the revival of these communities by redirecting farming communities towards the production of the “world’s cheapest livestock fodder,” costing just US$0.02 cents per pound, far less expensive than alfalfa and hay. Although, eventually there is room to grow beyond fodder and move into the production of more lucrative goods such as aguamiel, a popular fermented drink. Given the holistic benefits of this approach, as local farmers see the results and therefore the potential of the technique acceptance is growing among them.

The widespread application of this technique which has already restored an estimated 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares), could not only help restore Mexico’s farmland but potentially farmlands lost on a global scale, although more research is needed. Overall, in the face of overwhelming climate catastrophizes this exciting development gives hope to global farming communities, often the most vulnerable to climate change.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
UN, IPCC, GEF.ORG, INEGI
Photo by:   Markus Spiske
Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Journalist & Industry Analyst