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About our Silvopastoral planting method

When planting trees with local farmers in Limay, Nicaragua, Taking Root uses three different reforestation methods: Mixed-Species plantation, Boundary planting and Silvopastoral planting.

The Silvopastoral method involves planting improved pasture combined with the tree species Caesalpinia velutina, Swietenia humilis and Bombacopsis quinata at regular intervals throughout pasturelands. As with our other reforestation methods, we have worked with the community to specifically select species that are indigenous to the area and were once found or are still found within the municipality of Limay.

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The trees are planted 5 metres apart, alternating between Swietenia humilis and Bombacopsis quinata, with every second tree being a Caesalpinia velutina (see diagram above). Caesalpinia velutina is a short rotation, fast growing leguminous tree predominantly used for posts or in rural construction. Swietenia humilis and Bombacopsis quinata are high-valued longer rotation species commonly used for sawnwood. The species used are not palatable to cattle, which means they are much less likely to be eaten.

Farmers must make sure to keep cattle away from the new seedlings for the first few years after they are planted. The farmers then install wooden stakes around the young trees to protect them once the cattle are reintroduced.

Once the seedlings have established themselves, the farmers sew improved pasture seeds throughout the pasture, which increases the number of cattle the land can support. Andropogon gayanus seeds are more productive in terms of biomass, stay greener longer during the dry season, and are more nutritious and more shade resistant than traditional pastures.

Taking Root recognizes the importance of building a harmonious and sustainable relationship between the community members and their natural environment. So, this planting method is designed to provide the following ecological and economic benefits in the short, medium and long term:

Short-term benefits: Our farmers plant the trees at a high density. This means there are more trees to sequester carbon in a shorter amount of time. Since our farmers receive payments for this fantastic ecosystem service, this means they receive greater payments than if there were fewer trees. The fast-growing trees also release nitrogen into the soil and prevent soil erosion, increasing the quality of the cattle pasture. In addition, the shade of the trees reduces heat-stress on the cattle and increases their milk production.

Medium-term benefits: After 8-12 years, many of these trees will be so big that they crowd each other out! At this time, farmers are able to thin out the nitrogen-fixing species, which actually regrow quickly when they are coppiced. These trees provide farmers with a valuable source of construction material and fuel-wood, and discourages them from cutting down other forests to meet their needs. Farmers can also sell them locally and earn an additional income.

Long-term benefits: As the stands grow and regenerate, farmers continue to make occasional thinnings so as to give enough space for the existing trees as they grow. The longer-lived trees are very valuable in that they provide seeds, fruit and habitat for local flora and fauna. They will also produce highly valued timber, which can be sustainably harvested by the farmers and sold. Since all of these species coppice well, new trees will regenerate as older ones are removed keeping the stand semi-forested at all times.

This process allows natural regeneration to take place and, over time, our farmers’ forests increase in structural and ecological diversity.

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