Partnering with cattle ranchers for forest landscape restoration


Transforming Latin America’s extensive grazing systems is critical for forest landscape restoration (FLR) but conservation initiatives rarely make efforts to include cattle ranchers. Engaging ranchers requires understanding their perceptions about how improved management and conservation practices fit into their overall production strategy. To assess ranchers’ motivations and limitations for adopting conservation-friendly practices, I surveyed 191 ranchers and extension agents participating in a silvopastoral project in Colombia. I found that ranchers are integrating multiple practices they perceive as complementary for achieving their goals: practices aimed at improving productivity are motivated by utilitarian values, while practices targeting environmental degradation and climate change are driven by stewardship and identity values. Input costs and labor shortages currently limit the expansion of conservation-friendly practices, but in-kind support and small cash payments could potentially alleviate these barriers. Silvopastoral ranchers can be instrumental partners in FLR provided that initiatives are designed with their perspectives in mind.

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I am thankful to all the ranchers and extension agents who participated in this study. I also thank Karen Holl, Josie Lesage, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback to improve this manuscript. This research was supported by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the University of California’s Research and Innovation Fellowship for Agriculture (RIFA) Fellowship. Logistical support was provided by CIPAV and Proyecto Ganadería Colombiana Sostenible.

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Calle, A. Partnering with cattle ranchers for forest landscape restoration. Ambio 49, 593–604 (2020) doi:10.1007/s13280-019-01224-8

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  • Climate change
  • Conservation-friendly agriculture
  • Extension agents
  • Forest landscape restoration (FLR)
  • Payments for ecosystem services
  • Silvopastoral systems