Reforesting the farming pampa to combat climatic change.


A small rural, Argentinian town located in some of the most fertile plains in the world looked at itself critically and now is trying to find a way to recover absorbent soils through the planting of trees. They are doing so to be able to tackle two challenges: new rainfall patterns as a result of climatic change and soil erosion as a consequence of an agro-industrial model which has not given priority to environmental care so far.

The authorities of the commune of Maggiolo (3,000 residents), supported by a broad group of participants (academics, technicians, producers, and politicians), implemented a land management plan to fight the increasingly frequent episodes of hydric excess suffered by a significant part of southern Santa Fe. This is one of the provinces which form the historic core of the agricultural production in Argentina.

"Maggiolo is carrying out a land management plan conceived by a group of producers, members of Cambio Rural (Rural Change), who confirmed a recurring situation of vulnerability to water", Fernando Rosell, agricultural engineer, explained. The commune chief of Maggiolo, Luis Valerio, summarized it stating "there is a new climate, and it's time to change the agriculture and livestock production model and to reintroduce crop rotation, cover crops and pasture".

In-depth solutions

The need to search for an in-depth solution to the increasingly recurrent hydric excesses involved several institutions which began to meet mayors from that region in the pampa; the aim of the meetings was to go beyond relevant solutions and to look for the causes of the increasingly frequent floods that affect a part of that region. Mayors began to notice that infrastructure projects were not the solution to water surplus and that the problem was in the origin of that hydric excess.

Those meetings resulted in the Southern Santa Fe Working Group (GTSSfe) composed of representatives of the provincial government, academics and agriculture and livestock producers. Added to this was the conclusion that climatic change shifted from a hypothesis to a certainty; a change that affects intensity of rainfall and add uncertainty as well as climate variability in large areas of Argentina.
"In that context, we began to study the zone and we found out that close to Maggiolo it starts the basin that later becomes Las Encadenadas, which passes through Teodelina and joins, afterwards, the Salado river" Rosell explained. The land management work was performed on an area of 40,000 hectares.

Also, a study on groundwaters was completed to know water dynamics in depth. That's why professionals of the GTSSfe together with producers from Maggiolo district installed a network of piezometers which are checked every 15 days. Data produced will afterwards generate reports that help in the design of Good Practices in agricultural-livestock-forest production.
Local plan with added value

Luis Valerio, president of the commune of Maggiolo, looked back several years to remember the genesis of the transformation implemented in the area adjacent to that commune. "The repeated hydric problems resulted in water covering us several times in various places. Then we started to work together with the Faculty of Zavalla and carried out a study on overflows as well as a geographical survey of the zone, the roads, the drainages and the groundwaters in the area of lagoons".

Among the actions taken was the construction of a plant nursery where seeds of different species such as carob trees, ashes, and eucalyptus were planted: "we gave priority to those tree species which are both good for lumber and for urban planning" Rosell specified.

"Within the design of this land management plan, trees are a tool to transform excess water into dry matter", said the specialist, who highlighted that trees "are a complement since they occupy a space that not necessarily competes with farmland. In contrast, they give an added value to those lands, as well as to the floodable ones with salinity problems".
Slowly but surely

From there on, they started working in the urban plant and also with local producers to throw themselves into an afforestation process, (mainly in the boundaries of the lagoon), for the purpose of better controlling the effects of hydric excess periods.

This is a slower process than factory farming, but more secure and sustainable: "In ten years, it is possible to shift from a flooded, salinized field to one able to produce wood, which means a very good yearly crop production" Rosell added.

"Little by little, producers' commitment is increasing so we can work well together; we take short steps, but make progress day by day and we are starting to see results", noted the commune chief, adding that the executive is seeking to gain local participants, with a special emphasis on schools.

Translator: Javier Rodríquez