Clean pastures: Forest governance, landholdings and cattle in Colombia

Authors: Clare Sullivan*, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Holly Gibbs, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Lisa Rausch, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Topics: Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Latin America
Keywords: supply chain governance, deforestation, cattle
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Marshall North, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Conversion of forest to pasture for cattle is an important driver of land use and land cover change in Colombia, and deforestation rates have surged since the signing of the peace treaty, increasing by 23.5% from 2016 to 2017. To conserve forests while continuing to grow the agricultural sector, the Colombian government is developing zero deforestation commitments (ZDCs) to decouple deforestation from its most important agricultural supply chains. ZDCs are a novel form of private sector-led environmental governance, where corporations pledge publicly to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. Agreements are being developed for the beef and dairy sectors. To implement and monitor these ZDCs, supply chains must be mapped, such that a beef or dairy product can be traced across space and time and linked to the various parcels of land where an animal lived. I compile existing spatially explicit data at a national scale on forests, cattle, and landholdings to establish this linkage, which makes it possible to determine forest cover change on individual properties and evaluate it relative to the standards of the commitment (i.e. 2011 baseline, gross deforestation). Many current deforestation hot spots are in landscapes formerly controlled by the FARC. Cattle production in these areas is primarily for local markets, has a high-level of informality and occurs in scattered smallholder pastures, posing challenges for inclusion under the ZDC. I assess the ZDCs with respect to their potential for involving different types of farms, protecting high conservation value ecosystems and reducing carbon emissions from forest conversion.

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