The Gran Chaco Is Being Renewed For Both Humans And Wildlife

The Gran Chaco Is Being Renewed For Both Humans And Wildlife

A regenerative food system may contribute to the restoration of depleted soils in South America’s second-biggest forest, benefiting people, economies, and wildlife.

From above, a spreading tapestry of greens and browns may be seen. As you approach the land, these figures become a mix of vast savannas, complex dry woods, and narrow marshes. Neutral tones of tan dominate this dusty terrain. Although rain is scarce, plants and animals coexist peacefully with millions of humans on this vital foodscape.

Welcome to the Gran Chaco, a large South American biosphere that spans four countries, Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina, with about 60% of its total area. It is home to the world’s second-biggest forest and one of the remaining bastions of biodiversity in Latin America.

Additionally, it is an area that has had an extensive agricultural expansion, some of which have posed a threat to animals and local populations. However, a new strategy for food production, one that regenerates rather than degrades the land, could result in better results for both humans and wildlife.

Hunting Grounds With A History

Indigenous peoples in this biodiverse area have depended on the landscape for health and survival for millennia. The Gran Chaco gets its name from the Quechua word “chaku,” which translates as “hunting place.” However, like many others in Argentina’s vast spaces, this scene has changed dramatically in recent years. What was once a varied breadbasket for the local population has evolved into a worldwide trading hub for just a few goods.

Gran Chaco’s forests have changed dramatically over the past century, first to power Argentina’s railroad growth and make room for agricultural and livestock ranching activities. These broad grasslands have been turned into large-scale soybean and cattle agriculture during the previous two decades. Over one million square kilometers, roughly four times the size of the United Kingdom, have been freed for agricultural growth.

Both humans and wildlife.

A new strategy for food production, one that regenerates rather than degrades the land, could result in better results for both humans and wildlife.

Overworked and undernourished soils that rely on synthetic fertilizers for productivity have resulted from growing the same crop year after year. Patchy woods have been destroyed that originally acted as corridors for animals such as jaguars and giant anteaters. These changes jeopardize biodiversity, but they also have a significant influence on the region’s capacity to adapt to climate change and deal with natural catastrophes. Reduced tree cover results in increased temperatures, increased carbon emissions, and dry, depleted soils that are more prone to erode during floods or droughts, jeopardizing the quality and quantity of local water and the region’s food security.

Utilizing Nature to Assist Nature

They started collaborating with small farmers and bigger conventional agricultural businesses in 2015 to offer the notion of regenerative agriculture, a nature-based approach that indigenous populations in the Gran Chaco employed for generations. It is founded on returning to nature the resources necessary for food production, healthy soil, clean water, and biodiversity for the land to continue producing year after year. Through a landscape-level approach to agriculture that incorporates habitat conservation and restoration, this regenerative strategy sustains yields and contributes to protecting the land from destruction.

For example, one strategy used by soybean growers in the Gran Chaco is to put tiny, surface-dwelling plants between rows of crops. These plants, referred to as cover crops, are not harvested for money, but they assist in integrating nutrients into the soil, increasing total productivity and preventing erosion.

Ranchers in the Gran Chaco are likewise experimenting with incorporating nature into animal production. Farmers have begun allowing cattle to graze in woods rather than clearing more land for pastures, following a framework developed by Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (Instituto Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria).

While this strategy is not appropriate for all ranchers, it is feasible for small to medium-sized ranching enterprises. Forest grazing offers cattle a wider variety of forage possibilities, protects them from harsh heat, and retains moisture for understory vegetation. In exchange, the cattle nourish the environment and even aid in the distribution of carob seeds, a species critical to the health of the Gran Chaco’s forests.

Local Communities That Thrive

Along with improving the health of agricultural and animal enterprises, regenerative methods in this critical global foodscape also contribute to the growth of local livelihoods. Farmers in the Gran Chaco who use these strategies may improve their land management and produce higher-quality crops over time. Adopting a regenerative approach to agricultural and animal production also strengthens the land’s resilience and the ecosystem’s capacity to adapt to climate change, resulting in a more rapid and complete recovery from climatic catastrophes.

TNC has learned through the years of working with smallholder farmers that applying regenerative methods may be tough. Collaboration with farmers on a structural level is critical. One popular technique has been peer-to-peer outreach between farmers utilizing regenerative methods and others who have not yet begun for neighbors to exchange best practices and “on-the-ground” guidance.

The Gran Chaco may serve as a model for how large-scale food production can coexist with small farms while protecting biodiversity and fostering a local food economy based on natural solutions.

Adopting regenerative agricultural methods by small, medium, and big farmers continue to be our primary objective in the Gran Chaco. Recent progress has been positive, with one of the world’s largest agricultural producers vowing to get 50% of components, such as soybeans, from regenerative farms in the Gran Chaco by 2030. This is a lofty aim for a short period, but it is a good starting step.

Yet we barely have a decade to alter the trajectory of our world, which includes transitioning to a food system that replenishes rather than depletes nature. The Gran Chaco may serve as a model for how large-scale food production can coexist with small farms while protecting biodiversity and fostering a local food economy based on natural solutions. We may acquire rich agricultural fields and forest corridors and produce nutritious food and sustain healthy communities here. That is how we define success.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.