Education and Conservation Practices for a Sustainable Agriculture in Puerto Rico

Progress report for EDS23-053

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2023: $41,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Grant Recipient: University of Puerto Rico
Region: Southern
State: Puerto Rico
Principal Investigator:
Nicolás M. Cartagena
University of Puerto Rico
Dr. Anibal II Ruiz-Lugo
Puerto Rico Agricultural Extension Service, University of Puerto
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Project Information


The main objective for this project is to develop digital and printed a Best Practices for Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean manual, promote sustainable agriculture in terms of social and climate resilience, cover crops, and soil health. Participants will be exposed to basic concepts and terms associated with sustainable agriculture. This manual will help in the outreach of information about sustainable agriculture, definitions, concepts, and making it accessible to farmers, agricultural professionals, researchers, extension faculty, professors, students and beginner farmers. 

 A second objective is to conduct field trips training, the practices and topics that are going to be promoted include; water retention, vegetative barriers, cover crops, contour farming, water harvesting, crop rotation, community engagement, biodiversity, sedimentation control, soil conservation, and soil health. The practices that are going to be promoted at the farms and ranches will vary depending on the need of each farm. 

 The project team will promote social and climate resilience with emphasis on mitigation and erosion control of sedimentation to water bodies. Also, the adoption of practices to deal with effects of climate change, extreme drought and adequate management of water and soil will take place during the project period. 

 It is important to educate and promote for an inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The project team will promote with the participants the entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation of farms products. Direct and encouraged the beginning farmers to become sustainable entrepreneurs. 

 Facilitate the utilization of General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radio in case of emergencies by integrating participants into the Puerto Rico Agriculture Extension Services (PRAES) emergency network support group. 

Project Objectives:

The objective of this project is to teach and train farmers and ranchers in conservation and sustainable practices, and some concepts that Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) denominate Sustainable Development Goals. Promote the utilization of General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radio in case of emergency to integrate participants into the PRAES emergency network support. 

  1. Capacity building of farmers and other participants on the importance of soil and water conservation practices as a tool for mitigating climate change and its impact for the benefit of food security and sustainability. 
  2. Field training for participants to establish practices on their farms. 
  3. Promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. 
  4. Integrate participants into PRAES emergency support network with the use of GMRS. 


Educational approach:

We still working in the development of the Manual of Sustainable Practices.

Educational & Outreach Activities

2 Consultations
1 Webinars / talks / presentations
1 Other educational activities: We still working in the development of the Manual of Sustainable Practices.

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

The target audience for these projects will be beginning farmers, farmers, and ranchers. The project team will develop educational resources for capacity building on sustainable and conservation practices. USDA defines beginning farmers and ranchers as those who have operated a farm or ranch for 10 years or less either as a sole operator or with others who have operated a farm or ranch for 10 years or less. Beginning farmers tend to be younger than established farmers and to operate smaller farms or ranches, some of which may provide no annual production. Beginning farmers often face obstacles getting started, including high startup costs and limited availability of land. 

 Participants will increase their knowledge by exposing them to the Best Practices for Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean manual. The project team will provide opportunities to apply in the field, sustainable practices are already described under a learning by doing philosophy; develop networking opportunities for local agricultural producers. PRAES will use the farms identified for fieldtrips and implement conservation practices. Also, the project team will develop a program to train as trainers for Extension faculty in project deliverables and conservation practices to be implemented in local farms. As well, Extension Faculty will provide mentoring and follow up to the participants as needed on their farms.  

 Other strategies for capacity building include field trips and demonstrations using model farms (previous PRAES’ participants) in the South and East of the Island. Also, farmers and ranchers will have face-to-face follow-up visits by Extension Faculty as needed. Disseminate and exchange educational materials about conservation practices and make it accessible to beginning farmers, farmers, and ranchers.   

 The capacity building activities that integrate beginning farmers, farmers, and ranchers and some newly hired Extension Faculty will empower them to bring the knowledge and the importance of conservation resources for future generations. PRAES has hired some new Extension Faculty who plays a vital role in improving the quality of life of people living in socioeconomics vulnerability through participatory action through a process of non–formal education based on scientific research and focused on the aspirations and needs of families and communities. 

 Once the Best Practices for Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean manual is completed and shared with project participants, this will result in the implementation of recommended conservation practices in farms and ranches. The goal of the adoption of practices is the conservation of natural resources for future generations and educate how the project activities can contribute to minimizing climate change.  

 It is important to educate and explain the difference between renewable and non-renewable resources, to mitigate contamination and its exploitation; the renewable resources can regrow or be replaced within a person’s lifespan. The consequence of doing nothing can be a disaster for future generations. This implies that we must protect natural resources and mitigate their impact in the best possible way for the benefit of the planet and other generations. Future generations will be able to enjoy the greatest and most wonderful natural resource called planet earth. 

 Capacity building will be focused on the importance of soil and water conservation practices as a tool for mitigating climate change and its impact for the benefit of food security and sustainability. The team will recruit 30 beginning farmers, farmers, and ranchers and six Extension Faculty to participate in capacity building activities. Also, they will encourage participants to acquire knowledge on making the most efficient use of nonrenewable and on farm resources in a way that they can integrate natural biological cycles and controls. 

Another component of the project is to have six field trips to farms and ranches to put into practice the learning material. The adoption of conservation practices will depend on the need for individual farms or ranches. Factors that the project team will consider when the farm is selected include:  

  • Needs and the benefits to the environment. 
  • Farmers and ranchers are already PRAES’ clientele 
  • Farmers and ranchers’ availability 
  • Disposition to implement recommended practices 
  • Disposition to share knowledge with other participants 

 Once the practices are implemented on the farms or ranches, Extension Faculty will visit the agriculture to keep track and follow up on the results.  

The project team will train and integrate 30 farmers and ranchers with six Extension Faculty to PRAES emergency network. Integration will be achieved through the utilization of GMRS radio, which is regulated by the FCC, and a license is needed to operate GMRS radios. After a natural disaster or emergency, participants and PRAES staff will be able to use the GMRS radios to communicate the farmers’ situation, their community or any other situation in the progress. The GMRS is a licensed radio service that uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short – distance, two-way voice communication using hand-held radios, mobile radio, and repeater system. You can expect a communications range of one to twenty-five miles depending on station class, terrain, and repeater use. Licenses are issued for a ten-year term. 

The project team will recruit two undergraduate students to support the project and promote SARE. This is a fantastic opportunity for students at the College of Agricultural Science or to familiarize themselves with sustainable, resilience and conservation concepts. They will be assisting with the project for 15 months to work directly with the PI and Co-PI. 

 A panel discussion will be held among participating farmers and ranchers to share individual experiences after the adoption of practices. This activity will be used as an assessment tool to subsequently provide recommendations to continue with the outreach work by PRAES. 

 The project teams will evaluate participant’s adoption of recommended practices, activities/products and outcomes resulting from the inputs and outputs including but not limited to short, - mid, - and long-term outcomes: knowledge gained, skills, awareness. Also, the use of information by participants; sustainable practices adoption; improvement of the participants regarding use of sustainable agriculture in the long-term.  At the same time, skills acquired by PRAES faculty to educate the target audience will be evaluated. PRAES will comply with the grantee reporting and evaluation expectations as provided in the reporting and evaluation expectations. This includes but is not limited to data collected by the PI and Co-PI regarding learning outcomes; number of participants who gained or increased knowledge, awareness and skills about sustainable agriculture topics, adopted practices, approaches; number of participants who applied knowledge gained in an existing or new project by the adoption of recommended practices. Number of farmers and ranchers that used the Best Practices for Sustainable Agriculture in the Caribbean manual as a source of knowledge for sustainable agriculture and conservation activities in their farms or ranches.  

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.