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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

In tropical forest frontiers, agricultural policies that encourage cultivation increase greenhouse gas emissions,

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

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
 
During October-December 2013, Dr. Mena and his research group worked on the design and implementation of a household survey that would help assess the use of natural resources, forest and land use, and demographic, socioeconomic, and environmental conditions faced by farmers. A sample survey framework was prepared considering the heterogeneity of the target population living in the study area of both experimental and control areas, and a two-stage random sampling strategy was used. In the first stage, a primary sampling unit (PSU), which is the lowest administrative unit (e.g., village), will be chosen. In the second stage, households per contacted PSU will be randomly chosen. In addition to work focused on the design of the household survey, Dr. Mena and his team will train students from the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) Ethnic Diversity Program as enumerators by conducting interactive practice sessions. At USFQ, the survey format will need to be approved by an Ethical Review Board that will check the controls imposed by the project to maintain data confidentiality. Community outreach activities have been ongoing as well. Working with the Escuela de Líderes y Lideresas del Frente de Defensa de la Amazonía FDA (School of Leaders) has served as a very effective platform for community outreach. The Certificate in Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in the Ecuadorian Amazon program and the Certificate in Social Survey for Indigenous Students from the Amazon training program, which were conducted in September 2013 for a group of indigenous students from the Ethnic Diversity Program at USFQ as part of the Certificate in Social Survey, will be available again for the indigenous students enrolled in the Escuela de Líderes, starting in February 2014.

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