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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. 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 the ecosystem service goods such as; 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, mostly due to the lack of information and investment available to cattle ranchers. Therefore, ELTI has 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. 

Over a period of four days, this course aims to provide the practical basis necessary to understand the importance of ecosystem services that originate from forests and how to implement forest cover restoration strategies in cattle ranching landscapes via silvopastoral system practices. This field-based course will be facilitated in ELTI’s Permanent Training Sites in Azuero, which convey ecological principles through its interpretative trail network and demonstration sites. In addition, participants are invited to observe the range of restoration strategies and social contexts through visits to model farms and discussions with their respective owners. Ranchers, community groups and regional ministry representatives interested in sustainable ranching and farming are encouraged to attend.


Module 1. Basic forest ecology and ecosystem services

  • Introduction to the ecosystem goods and services from forests
  • Introduction to tropical dry forests in the region of Azuero
  • Introduction to forest dynamics, succession and natural regeneration of tropical forests

Module 2. Land use and the degradation of ecosystem services

  • The introduction of regional drivers of degradation
  • Characteristics of forest degradation
  • The consequences of degradation on the provision and regulation of ecosystem services

Module 3. Strategies for restoring ecosystem services in ranching landscapes

  • Clarify restoration goals and select appropriate restoration models
  • Introduce the diagnostic methods of an area for potential restoration
  • Principles and 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 the range of options to restore forests in ranching landscapes
  • Practices, operation and maintenance of an SPS

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

  • The development and dynamics of a community group
  • Planning, implementation and project management
  • Strategies for disseminating information to the community and region

Module 6. Final exercise: Develop a farm management plan

  • Outline objectives of a management plan
  • Develop strategies for integrating ecological restoration concepts in a conventional ranching system
  • Share and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the farm plans