Skip to Main Content
Development, Security, and Cooperation (DSC) Development, Security, and Cooperation
The National Academies
The National Academies
Home About DSC
Quick Links

FREE Reports     

Download free PDFs of
ALL Academy Reports

All reports available on the National Academies Press (NAP) website are now offered free of charge to web visitors.

Contact us

The National Academies
500 5th St NW - KWS 502
Washington, DC 20001

Tel: (202) 334-2800
Fax: (202) 334-2139


Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

REDD based forest expansion, food consumption, and reduced emissions agricultural policies (REAP) in the Ecuadorian Amazon 

PI: Carlos Mena, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ)
US Partner: Thomas Rudel, Rutgers University
Project Dates: May 2012 - April 2015

Project Overview

EcuadorPartnership Picture A
Project team members Carolina Sampedro and Alexandra Guevara during fieldwork (Photo courtesy of Carlos Mena).

In tropical forest frontiers, agricultural policies that encourage cultivation increase greenhouse gas emissions,while at the same time forest policies that encourage an expansion in forest cover reduce greenhouse gas emissions but can create risks for food security. Can these contrasting goals be reconciled? This project aims to inform the current debate by proving links between payments for ecosystems services (i.e., Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or "REDD+") and the production of foodstuffs using emergent silvopastoral landscapes (pasture land with increasing forestation) in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The emergence of these new forested landscapes is viewed by these researchers as both an opportunity for REDD+ due the characteristics of these landscapes as a carbon sink and as a natural experiment to explore the relationship between the expansions of forested landscapes and the production of food.
This project has several interconnected objectives: (1) identifying the extent and drivers of silvopastoral landscapes; (2) identifying  food consumption and production patterns and understanding how they are affected by the emergence of silvopastoral landscapes; and (3) developing an emissions profile of peri-urban and urban farmers with an eye towards providing them an equitable distribution from the benefits of REDD+ while providing food security to urban areas. This project will be developed in two main areas of the Ecuadorian Amazon--Coca and Macas--that share key characteristics, including high population growth, high urban expansion, and the emergence of silvopastoral landscapes. However, these two areas are different in several respects. Coca is the center of oil exploration and extraction in Ecuador, and this industry is an important driver of agricultural expansion or land abandonment. Macas, on the other hand, is undergoing agricultural change due to mechanisms of rural-to-urban and international outmigration from agricultural areas. The use of these two areas will provide the opportunity to study processes common to the entire Amazon, where urban growth and the emergence of silvopastoral landscapes occur but due to different factors. To achieve their objectives, the researchers on this project will use a number of methods and techniques, including remote sensing, household surveys, and complex systems modeling. The project should contribute to increasing understanding of the relationship between food production and consumption and should generate a package of recommendations on reduced-emissions agricultural policies for Ecuador and the Amazon in general.
Summary of Recent Activities
Dr. Carlos Mena and his research team spent February to April 2014 developing questionnaires for household surveys designed to collect data to assess the use of natural resources, including forests and land use, as well as demographic, socioeconomic, and environmental conditions of farmers. The research team together with key stakeholders held several meetings to determine the issues to be included in the questionnaire. One objective at this stage was to ensure that the survey would be comparable to other surveys active in the Ecuadorian Amazon, i.e., the University of North Carolina’s longitudinal study of land use and the Rutgers survey in Zamora regarding secondary forests. The questionnaires obtained will allow for comparisons with these datasets, thus providing added depth to the study. The questionnaires are divided in two components, one to be filled out by the head of the household and one to be filled out by the partner of the head of the household. The first component includes questions about land use, economics of the household, and environmental factors, while the second component includes questions about demographics, food security, health, and other matters.

Meanwhile, training in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) skills was also provided to two groups this spring. The first group included Quito-based students with wide interests in conservation issues concerning the Amazon region. Their 48-class-hour course took place in March 2014 and was composed of 15 students, including 5 from indigenous groups of the Amazon. The second group included about 30 students enrolled in the Escuela de Líderes del Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía, targeting indigenous and campesino leaders of the communities from the Province of Napo. They participated in a one-day class held on April 27, 2014.

Plans for the late spring and summer on this project include recruiting and training students and professional interviewers to learn about the household survey questionnaire and main issues that might arise during the interview process. The survey will then be carried out in the province of Napo over approximately six weeks during July-August 2014.

Back to PEER Cycle 1 Grant Recipients