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Community / Land projects / Sustainable futures for the Costa Rica dairy sector: optimising environmental and economic outcomes

Sustainable futures for the Costa Rica dairy sector: optimising environmental and economic outcomes

€514375.8956

05/17 - 01/20

Achevé

This project is part of

General

Expansion of poor quality and low productivity pasture livestock production in Central and Southern America is a major cause of deforestation, and leads to significant environmental pressures including loss of natural capital, air and water pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. Trade liberalization is causing major structural changes to livestock sectors in Central American countries, with profound implications for the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities, land use policy objectives, climate change, air and water quality, and for other sectors such as tourism that are reliant on natural resources. In this multi-actor, proof of concept project we will integrate measurement and mined data to model a range of scenarios of potential transitions for the dairy sector in Costa Rica, in order to propose promising pathways of sustainable intensification for the dairy and wider land use sectors that balance socio-economic and environmental outcomes. In this proposal we bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers with proven expertise of delivering evidence that supports development of practical and cost-effective strategies for livestock production. The project consortium is complemented by a key industrial collaborator in Costa Rica that dominates the dairy sector, accounting for >80% of the dairy processing, and a stakeholder group comprising policy makers for agriculture and environment, other agriculture industry sector bodies, and farmers. Our joint expertise includes soil science; measurements and mitigation of diffuse pollutants to air and water; carbon footprinting and life cycle assessment; agroforestry and livestock production; socio-economics; agricultural economics and extension, and policy formulation. This unique blend of skills is essential to deliver our objectives and to meet GCRF and ODA goals, and to build the interdisciplinary capacity needed to deliver holistic solutions to promote sustainable land use for future livestock production in Central American LMIC countries. The main aim of this project is to develop sustainable futures for food production in the tropics, using the Costa Rican dairy sector as a case study. The approach we develop will be an exemplar that can be rolled out to other agricultural sectors, to other Central American countries and beyond. To achieve this, the project team will collate existing data of trends in livestock numbers, sectoral greenhouse gas emissions, and other information on energy, water, tree-pasture-animal relations, genetics, and nutrient inputs and outputs, and determine their robustness and suitability for the models the project will develop. We will adopt the best protocols for measuring greenhouse gas and ammonia emissions to air, and nitrate and phosphorus losses to water, on the CATIE dairy farm, and then apply these protocols to three commercial dairy farms of various scales, along an intensification gradient. To build the legacy of the project, we will train Costa Rican and other Central American researchers in a range of diffuse pollution measurement methodologies, as well as in carbon foot-printing, LCA and farm-scale modelling. Mined and measured data will be used to calculate environmental and economic balances for the CATIE and three commercial dairy farming systems (and their products), and model sensitivity to specific management practices and technologies that would be representative of trends in intensification, as well as explore more sustainable intensification strategies. The measured and modelled data will then be used to scale up and assess the potential trade-offs and synergies for specific dairy development pathways between environmental and productive/economic goals at the national and global level. These findings will be used to advise key actors (Ministries of Agriculture and Environment & Energy, National Milk Chamber - CNPL), via a final Workshop in Costa Rica at the end of the project.

Objectives

The Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) supports cutting-edge research to address challenges faced by developing countries. The fund addresses the UN sustainable development goals. It aims to maximise the impact of research and innovation to improve lives and opportunity in the developing world. The fund addresses the UN sustainable development goals. It aims to maximise the impact of research and innovation to improve lives and opportunity in the developing world.