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Pollinators As Tonic For Agricultural Growth



Pollinators such as bees, birds and bats affect 35 per cent of the world’s crop production, increasing the output of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide. The stability of crop yields not only depends on pollination, but also on further ecosystem services.

Productivity of many crops benefits from the presence of pollinating insects, so a decline in pollinator abundance compromise global agricultural production.

This decline is linked to activities of human such as poorly managed landscapes which interfere with the survival of these pollinators thereby threatening their existence and gradually driving them into extinction.

Experts consistently underscore the importance of carefully managed landscapes for a diversity of functionally important groups of organisms that sustain many important ecosystem services such as pollination, pest, pathogen and weed control, and decomposition to enhance agricultural productivity.

This was the crux of the first quarter review meeting of the national trialogue on pollinator-friendly Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) country action plan convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Federal Ministry of Environment and Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety in Calabar. The meeting brough together key stakeholders from the forestry, agriculture, researchers, academia, government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others to brainstorm on national actions to address the threats to pollinators in a way that enhances food security and contributes to land degradation neutrality targets of the United Nations.

Speaking to LEADERSHIP,  Nigeria’s national coordinator, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network (BESNet), Tiamiyu Sikiru Oladele, lamented the poor knowledge of Nigerians on the important role of pollinators to agricultural production, saying the work of the trialogue group, which deals with pollinator, land degradation and food security, was to enlighten people and let them know that pollinators like bees, butterflies and all those insects that pollinate are very crucial to agricultural productivity.

“They are even more important than the fertilizers and chemicals that we apply because plants cannot produce without pollinators. So, we need to protect them and make sure that their habitat is not destroyed so they cannot affect food security because without pollinators there will be reduction in productivity but the awareness in this country is still very low. People just see butterfly or bee as just another insect in the farm but they are serving a very important purpose in plant production,” he said.

The national coordinator added that pollinators are endangered because when their habitat is destroyed, they can’t function and gradually become extinct, pointing out that one of the group’s functions was to sensitize the government and the people on the importance of these pollinators in order to conserve them and prevent their going into extinction.

“The importance of these insects to our production is very low. They are very critical to food security because when you degrade the land, you remove the forest cover then you’ve destroyed their habitat and it is as good as destroying them. So, you have to protect their habitat so they can have a place to stay for them to function as pollinators,” he added.

Similarly, a participant, a senior research fellow for biodiversity, education and resource centre, SHEDA Science and Technology Complex (SHESTCO), Dr Chibuzor Iloh, said the meeting, a working group for pollinator conservation, which include all those insects that transfer pollens from one place to another to help food security, was aimed at creating awareness on  agro/environmentally friendly landscapes to save the pollinators from extinction.

“So, the whole idea is to develop a working group that can conserve pollinators. You know that landscapes and agricultural practices are degrading or killing pollinators. For example, excessive use of pesticides and burning of land drives away pollinators, birds, bats, bees, butterflies, moths. So, the whole idea of this working group is to see how we can have landscapes that are agro/environmentally friendly to these pollinators, then see how we can conserve and create awareness for these pollinators.

“It has to do with two things, biodiversity conservation, we’re trying to bring back those pollinators that are going extinct. Secondly, food security, if most of these pollinators that pollinate food crops are not there then we won’t have those fruits especially those bright flower food plans. So, if these pollinators are back then we will have a lot of pollinated flowers that will develop into fruits, mango, paw paw and others.

“The first meeting we had was to harmonize an action plan in Abuja, this second meeting now is to develop specific projects. For example, now projects of trying to harmonize pollinator data in Nigeria, we need to know what people are doing, what are the pollinator insects we have in Nigeria, who and who have data for them all over the country.

“So, one of the projects is to harmonize those data. Another project is to see how we can create public awareness, train communities, who are the people that implement the wrong farm practices, if we train them to start using agro-ecological farm practices management, that is to use less pesticides, more organic manure and as well as incorporate applorics, bee keeping to your farm, to attract bees to your farm and pollinate them and still go back to produce honey. So, these are some of the actionable projects we came to this meeting to develop,” he added.