A CASH injection of £260,000 has been awarded to two projects investigating sustainable land use in Columbia, which will allow researchers from Scotland’s Rural College to continue helping Columbian farmers move towards alternative land use.

The South American country faces many challenges – climate change, the 50-year legacy of insurgency by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and an extensive 'black' economy based on growing coca plants for the production of cocaine.

After a successful first year, funding has been renewed for a further two years of work examining post-conflict agricultural development. The first project, led by the University of Reading, focuses on developing heat-tolerant bean varieties for future climate change scenarios and supporting breeding strategies in collaboration with farmers and ex-combatants in post-conflict zones.

The second project, led by the University of Bristol, is looking at strategies for scaling up silvopastural systems for Colombian beef farmers, to increase overall productivity and long-term income through the simultaneous production of tree crops, forage and livestock. Both projects involve collaboration with researchers at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia and SRUC.

Professor Andrew Barnes, head of SRUC’s Rural Economy, Environment and Society Department, and economist Hernan Degiovanni are leading the research, providing economic and behavioural modelling expertise, by conducting experiments to understand farmers’ perceptions of risk and their preferences for different crop traits.

“Colombia is a rapidly developing country and these projects will provide long-term impact for policy and society in Latin America,” said Professor Barnes. "This also further emphasises the increasing international role that social and economic sciences within SRUC are playing within the research and policy landscape."