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Ecological Restoration Strategies for Cattle Ranching Landscapes of The Azuero


The tropical dry forest, the most endangered ecosystem in the tropics, is extremely threatened by the dominance of extensive cattle ranching practices. The consequences of conventional ranching systems in Panama are particularly severe in the dry forest ecosystem of the Azuero Peninsula. The destruction of forests has degraded a range of ecosystem service goods, including water, soil fertility, and biodiversity, which are necessary to support ranching and agricultural livelihoods. With a low annual rainfall and a dry season lasting from five to six months, the region’s extreme climate variations compound the stresses of unsustainable land use practices and make efforts to restore the ecosystem particularly challenging.

While advances in forest restoration and sustainable ranching have been shown to enhance production and ecosystem services in cattle ranching landscapes, they are virtually absent from the Panamanian landscape, due mostly to the lack of information and investment available to cattle ranchers. ELTI, therefore, developed a field-based training course for cattle ranchers interested in learning about and implementing strategies to restore forest cover on their farm as a means to improve the provision and regulation of goods and ecosystem services and increase productivity on-farm.

This four-day course aims to provide participants with a foundation in the importance of ecosystem services that originate from forests and how to implement forest cover restoration strategies in cattle ranching landscapes via silvopastoral systems. This field-based course will be facilitated in ELTI’s focal training site in the Azuero Peninsula, which includes interpretative trail systems in different landscapes and demonstration sites. In addition, participants are invited to observe the range of restoration strategies and social contexts in the region by visiting model farms and discussing issues with local landholders. Ranchers, community groups and regional ministry representatives interested in sustainable ranching and farming are encouraged to participate in this course.


Module 1. Basic forest ecology and ecosystem services

  • Introduction to the ecosystem goods and services from forests
  • Function of tropical dry forests
  • Forest dynamics, succession and natural regeneration of tropical forests

Module 2. Land use and forest degradation

  • Regional drivers of degradation in Azuero
  • Degradation of ecosystem services
  • Socio-economic consequences of forest degradation

Module 3. Strategies for restoring ecosystem services in ranching landscapes

  • Introduce the diagnostic methods of an area for potential restoration
  • Clarify restoration goals and appropriate restoration models
  • Methods for forest restoration (range of restoration options: Passive - Active)

Module 4. Sustainable ranching: An alternative to conventional ranching

  • Biodiversity in agro-landscapes
  • Introduction to silvopastoral systems (SPS)
  • Factors to consider in implementing an SPS and alternative practices to restore forests in ranching landscapes
  • Management and maintenance of a SPS

Module 5. Community organizations: Advancing ecological restoration via local leaders

  • The need, development and dynamics of community-based associations
  • Project development and identification of financing
  • Project implementation and management
  • Strategies for disseminating project information to the community

Module 6. Final exercise: Developing a farm management plan

  • Objectives of land use planning
  • Identifying biophysical and social variables
  • Selecting adequate restoration strategies