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Agriculture in the Galapagos faces a confluence of environmental, social, and economic crises, which hampers the efforts of farmers and conservation practitioners alike. Therefore, close collaboration between farmers and conservation scientists to include agriculture within the vision of conservation is imperative for the region’s sustainability from food security and environmental standpoints.


  • How can conservation and agriculture sectors complement each other to improve farmer wellbeing?
  • How can conservation and agriculture complement each other to improve the control of invasive plants as well as the protection of endemic fauna?

People: Francisco Laso, Steve Walsh, and Javier Arce-Nazario

Farmers on the Galapagos Islands face a confluence of environmental and social challenges, including severe droughts, extreme climatic events (El Niño/La Niña), encroaching invasive species, a lack of affordable labor, and relentless economic competition with imports from the mainland. Furthermore, protected areas surround agricultural regions, meaning that certain land uses and farm inputs are restricted. This proximity causes conflicts with endemic wildlife and invasive species, as well. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop sustainable livelihoods for farmers on the islands without compromising the continued survival of the unique species that make this archipelago a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This project, which is led by UNC-CH doctoral candidate, Francisco Laso, explores how environmental and socio-economic factors interact in agroecosystems of the Galapagos. How do the physical, biotic, and socio-economic dimensions affect farmers’ livelihoods, invasive species, protected species, and land use? Francisco combines existing information from satellite image collections, census data, ecological data, and local knowledge to analyze these questions through both qualitative and quantitative methods.

This research is funded by the Russel E. Train Education for Nature Fellowship, the Off-Campus Dissertation Fellowship, the Institute for the Study of Americas, and the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research program.