Silvopastoral systems of the Chol Mayan ethnic group in southern Mexico: Strategies with a traditional basis
Ana Genoveva Pignataro, Samuel Israel Levy Tacher, Juan Rogelio Aguirre Rivera, José Nahed Toral, Mario González Espinosa, Nelson Rendón Carmona
Silvopastoral systems combine trees and/or shrubs with grazing cattle. In the municipality of Salto de Agua, Chiapas, Mexico, some indigenous communities have developed silvopastoral systems based on their traditional knowledge regarding use of local natural resources. Through analysis of classification based on the composition of tree vegetation, two groups of grazing units were identified in the study area. Different attributes of tree and herbaceous vegetation, as well as of agricultural management and production, were compared between the two groups. Results indicate that at least two strategies of silvopastoral management exist. The first - LTD. The second - HTD. Average richness per grazing unit for the LTD strategy was 7.2 species, and for HTD strategy it was 12.7 species. For all variables, there was a significant difference between the two strategies. In addition, both strategies differ in prairie management. In the HTD strategy, growers spare their preferred spontaneously growing tree species by clearing around them. Many of these species, particularly those harvested for timber, belong to the original vegetation. In these prairies, average coverage of native grasses was significantly greater than in the LTD strategy, and neither fertilizers nor fire are used to maintain or improve the pastures; by contrast, in HTD prairies, introduced grasses, principally Cynodon plectostachyus, have a higher average coverage than in the LTD prairies. Regardless of the differences in composition of tree and herbaceous vegetation, in both types of grazing units a similar animal load is maintained. Many attributes of these silvopastoral strategies - based on traditional technology of the Chol farmers of the Tulija River Valley - concord with sustainable agriculture and provide a wide variety of services to the farmer and the environment. Diffusion of this technology in areas similar to that of this region could have a positive impact on the economy of conventional cattle raisers while generating environmental services.
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