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Los Arboleros Farm, Ecuador

  • Definition
    Devising project idea, defining the aim and main components
  • Design
    Specifying details such as time-frame, budget, target indicators, project partners and relevant steps to reach the project objectives
  • Financing
    Searching and securing funding and investment, setting up relevant financing partnerships, and discussing payment modalities
  • Implementation
    Execution of feasibility studies, context analysis, plot design, planting and setting up facilities and starting with potential capacity-building
  • Maintenance
    Operational phase (monitoring and evaluation, impact assessments and adjustments, execution of educational programmes and long-term capacity building)
  • Scaling Up
    Scaling up phase is when the project it has already shown success by obtaining impact as well as economic results and it's ready to become replicable.

In a tropical region dominated by cattle ranching, Los Arborelos Farm stands out as a wildlife hotspot, where bamboo is commercially produced within a roughly designed agroforestry system. Building up from previously degraded pasture land, the farm is now on the way to scaling up its production via diversification of its byproducts and by strengthening the envisioned capacity-building program. 

Los Arboleros Farm from above / Source: Los Arboleros

Overgrazing is taking its toll on the landscape

The Manabi region where the project is located is marked by hilly terrains and slope topography, coming from the Andean mountains to the Pacific coast. Traditionally, these adverse conditions made it difficult for most agricultural production, but perfect for other cultures like coffee, for example. From 2011 onwards, extensive cattle ranching has been skyrocketing, supported by governmental policies. But the naturally fragile ecosystem of this mountainous tropical landscape is at risk and overgrazing has already shown its effects transforming the landscape.

The Model School Program will focus on the complete bamboo lifecycle (plantations management, curing, processing, construction applications, and market access). Plus it will also bridge with other organic regenerative agricultural practices like compost making, crop rotation, agroecology, topsoil conservation, and watershed management. The goal is to increase biodiversity on the pastures and promote crop diversification and long-term economic resilience of the farm.

Source: Los Arboleros

Everything starts with the soil

Los Arboleros is used as a demonstration site for the Regeneration Field Institute and provides a clear example for regenerative agriculture and architecture. In the agroecology training, the main focus will be improving soil quality and productivity. The diversification of crops will demonstrate reduced dependency on individual crops whilst protecting farmers from crop failures. The local diet can be improved by growing various species locally while productivity will increase by natural synergies between crops. Tours, workshops and interns are welcome to drop in for inspiration and learning.

Soil quality and biodiversity are the main focus of the agroforestry system. This will be reached by implementing “bio corridors” (natural biodiversity corridors), diversification of crops and significant areas dedicated to wildlife forage and habitat. The increased biodiversity will balance the natural system, and produce more biomass so that soil life can benefit from the added Soil Organic Matter (SOM). Trees and plants protect soil from flushing or blowing away while dead plant material retains water in the soil and nurtures living soil organisms, supporting the local water retention system. 

Through agroforestry, the farm will be diversified. This will create additional revenue streams next to the income of hosting the Regeneration Field Institute. When the farm itself is regenerative it will attract more farmers seeking training for an alternative source of income, thus improving self-sufficiency. Furthermore, a greater variety of food can be sold locally and high-value crops such as turmeric will be sold internationally.

Turmeric from Los Arboleros / Source: Los Arboleros

Making a difference, one farmer at a time

The example of agroforestry will inspire thousands of farmers over time. The farmland will function as a model farm in the region to be studied and multiplied. Socially the farm is a meeting place where knowledge on agroforestry can be exchanged in the existing bamboo buildings, creating a regional hub for regenerative agroforestry. Los Arboleros has an active collaboration with 3 local and 7 international universities. For this reason, the farm has regular visits from professors and students many of which will be future farmers and are excited to see alternative holistic farming methods. The increased success in their agroforestry work will have a positive social impact and a high likelihood of regenerative agriculture replication through imitation and training.

Overall, this project aims to showcase the example of reaching economic resilience through regenerative agroforestry with diversification of crops and the synergies between the biodiversity added to the farm mimicking a natural system. The holistic approach will cover agriculture and architecture while sharing the advantages of regenerative supply chains, and improve the livelihoods of farmers through capacity-building.

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