Sowing improved pastures in the savannas of the humid/sub-humid tropicsLatin America

Background 1 2 3

A major constraint to ruminant livestock production in many developing countries is the quantity and quality of forage available. Native grasses of the rangelands of the developing world tend to be of relatively low digestibility. The productivity of pastures can be increased through adding nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers, adjusting the frequency and severity of grazing, and utilizing irrigation. Improving pasture quality and productivity offers a readily available means of increasing livestock production, particularly in the humid/sub-humid tropics. However, while such practices will generally improve pasture quality and animal performance, they will not always reduce GHG emissions. For example, the addition of nitrogen fertilizer in a grazing system may reduce methane emissions but increase nitrous oxide emissions.

Relationship to CSA

The sowing of better quality forages and better pasture management improves forage digestibility and nutrient quality, resulting in faster animal growth rates, higher milk production, earlier age at first calving, and increased incomes. Better nutrition can also increase fertility rates and reduce mortality rates of calves and mature animals, thus improving animal and herd performance and system resilience to climatic shocks. Substantial improvements in soil carbon sequestration and farm productivity are possible, as well as reductions in enteric emission intensities, by replacing natural vegetation with deep-rooted pastures such as Brachiaria.

Impacts and lessons learned

In Latin America, Brachiaria grasses have been widely adopted with large economic benefits; animal productivity can be increased by 5-10 times compared with animals substiting on diets of native savanna vegetation. In Brazil, where about 99 million hectares have been planted, annual benefits are about USD 4 billion. In the humid/sub-humid livestock of systems of Latin America, the total mitigation potential of improved pastures such as Brachiaria is estimated to be 44 Mt CO2 eq. This is due partially to the mitigation of methane via a reduction in the number of livestock needed to meet milk and meat demand, but mostly because of the carbon sequestration by deep-rooted grasses in the soil. Nevertheless, there are constraints to the adoption of improved pastures, mostly because of the technical capacity that is needed to manage them and the economic costs associated with sowing and maintaining them.


  • 1

    Rao IM, Peters M, van der Hoek R, Castro A, Subbarao G, Cadisch G, Rincón A. 2014. Tropical forage-based systems for climate-smart livestock production in Latin America. Rural21. Tropical forage grasses and legumes as key components of sustainable crop-livestock systems in Latin America and the Caribbean have major implications for improving food security, alleviating poverty, restoring degraded lands and mitigating climate change. Climate-smart tropical forage crops can improve the livestock productivity of smallholder farming systems and break the cycle of poverty and resource degradation. Sustainable intensification of forage-based systems contributes to better human nutrition, increases farm incomes, raises soil carbon accumulation and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 2

    Thornton PK, Herrero M. 2010. The potential for reduced methane and carbon dioxide emissions from livestock and pasture management in the tropics. PNAS 107(46):19667–19672. We estimate the potential reductions in methane and carbon dioxide emissions from several livestock and pasture management options in the mixed and rangeland-based production systems in the tropics. The impacts of adoption of improved pastures, intensifying ruminant diets, changes in land-use practices, and changing breeds of large ruminants on the production of methane and carbon dioxide are calculated for two levels of adoption: complete adoption, to estimate the upper limit to reductions in these greenhouse gases (GHGs), and optimistic but plausible adoption rates taken from the literature, where these exist. Results are expressed both in GHG per ton of livestock product and in Gt CO2-eq. We estimate that the maximum mitigation potential of these options in the land-based livestock systems in the tropics amounts to approximately 7% of the global agricultural mitigation potential to 2030. Using historical adoption rates from the literature, the plausible mitigation potential of these options could contribute approximately 4% of global agricultural GHG mitigation. This could be worth on the order of $1.3 billion per year at a price of $20 per t CO2-eq. The household-level and sociocultural impacts of some of these options warrant further study, however, because livestock have multiple roles in tropical systems that often go far beyond their productive utility.
  • 3

    FAO. 2013a. Climate-Smart Agriculture: Sourcebook. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Between now and 2050, the world’s population will increase by one-third. Most of these additional 2 billion people will live in developing countries. At the same time, more people will be living in cities. If current income and consumption growth trends continue, FAO estimates that agricultural production will have to increase by 60 percent by 2050 to satisfy the expected demands for food and feed. Agriculture must therefore transform itself if it is to feed a growing global population and provide the basis for economic growth and poverty reduction. Climate change will make this task more difficult under a business-as-usual scenario, due to adverse impacts on agriculture, requiring spiralling adaptation and related costs.

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CCAFS Climate-Smart Agriculture 101

The basics

Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an integrative approach to address these interlinked challenges of food security and climate change, that explicitly aims for three objectives:

A. Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity, to support equitable increases in farm incomes, food security and development;

B. Adapting and building resilience of agricultural and food security systems to climate change at multiple levels; and

C. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture (including crops, livestock and fisheries).

Entry points

Agriculture affects and is affected by climate change in a wide range of ways and there are numerous entry points for initiating CSA programmes or enhancing existing activities. Productivity, mitigation and adaptation actions can take place at different technological, organizational, institutional and political levels. To help you navigate these myriad entry points we have grouped them under three Thematic Areas: (i) CSA practices, (ii) CSA systems approaches, and (iii) Enabling environments for CSA. Each entry point is then described and analysed in terms of productivity, adoption and mitigation potential and is illustrated with cases studies, references and internet links for further information.

Develop a CSA plan

Planning for, implementing and monitoring CSA projects and programmes evolves around issues of understanding the context including identification of major problems/barriers and opportunities related to the focus of the programme; developing and prioritizing solutions and designing plans; implementation; and monitoring and evaluation. Most major development agencies have their own framework for project and programme formulation and management but CCAFS has developed a specific approach for planning, implementing and assessing CSA projects and programme called CSA plan. CSA plan was developed to provide a guide for operationalizing CSA planning, implementation and monitoring at scale. CSA plan consist of four major components: (1) Situation analysis; (2) Targeting and prioritizing; (3) Program support; and (4) Monitoring. evaluation and learning.


To meet the objectives of CSA, such as agricultural development, food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation, a number of potential funding sources are available. For instance, climate finance sources may be used to leverage agriculture finance and mainstream climate change into agricultural investments. This section offers an overview of potential sources of funding for activities in climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at national, regional and international levels and for a number of different potential ‘clients’ including governments, civil society, development organizations and others. Additionally, it includes options to search among a range of funding opportunities according to CSA focus area, sector and financing instrument.

Resource library

CSA Guide provides a short and concise introduction and overview of the multifaceted aspects of climate-smart agriculture. At the same time it offers links to references and key resources that allows for further investigations and understanding of specific topics of interest. In the resource library we have gathered all the references, key resources, terms and questions in one place for a quick overview and easy access that can be used as a part of or independently of the other sections of the website. The resource library is divided into six sections; (1) References – list all publications, links and blogs referred to on the website; (2) Tools – list all the CSA tools presented on the website; (3) Key terms – explains the most important and frequently used terms related to CSA; (4) Frequently asked questions (FAQ) – provides a rapid overview of the most common questions asked on climate-smart agriculture; (5) About – where you can find out more about the purpose and structure of, as well as on the organizations and authors behind the website; (6) Contact.

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