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Insect pollination centre stage at African conference

Healthy forests in sub-Saharan Africa are an important source of wild pollinators, and thus support agricultural productivity and food security in the region, a conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, heard this November.

Researchers from the EfD research program ESAfD , presented their findings on the importance of insect pollination for sub-Saharan agriculture at the African Ecosystem Service Partnership (ESP) Conference

Their research makes an important new link between the economic value of insect pollination services for crops in sub-Saharan Africa, and different land use types in the vicinity of farmlands.

‘There are already many studies that estimate the economic value of pollination services offered by ecosystems,’ EfD researchers Dr. Richard Mulwa, Dr. Byela Tibesigwa, and Dr. Dawit Woubishet said, following their attendance at the conference. They presented their findings in a session which focused on estimating the economic value of ecosystem services for better decision making.

‘Our assumption is that insect pollinators inhabit different ecosystems, and therefore the proximity to a different land use type would influence the economic value of insect pollination,’ they explained.

Mulwa, Tibesigwa, and Woubishet were able to show that healthy forests support agricultural productivity because they are natural habitats for many wild insect pollinators, and thus provide a vital ecosystem service in their contribution to crop pollination to small-holder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

The take-home message for policy makers is that conserving natural forests is an investment in local food security. This ties into the United Nations’ food security objectives as laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and correlates to supporting small-holder farming in the region.

First ‘Ecosystem Services Partnership’ conference for Africa

This was the first conference of the regional Africa chapter of ESP, and the EfD researchers’ session focused on different ways and perspectives of valuing pollination services.

‘By combing economic models of agricultural production with spatial information on ecosystems in the proximity of agricultural fields, we are able to examine which ecosystems supply pollination services. We could then establish their economic value to farm production,’ said project coordinator Juha Siikamäki.  

The theme of this year’s conference was ecosystem services and how these contribute to achieving the United Nations’ SDGs on the African continent. Discussions focused on Africa’s contribution towards data and evidence, best practices for management, and restoration of ecosystem services for decision making particularly towards the realisation of the SDGs.

The researchers’ work was drawn from studies conducted as part of the African component of the EfD Ecosystem Services Accounting for Development (ESAforD) research project. This is a seven-country collaboration into calculating the value of the ecosystem services, developed the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Resource for the Future (RFF) in collaboration with EfD centres in Costa Rica, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa. The four-year project aims to develop robust ecosystem service valuation methodologies and results that can also be used in the system of national accounts.

The conference brought together 250 African experts, students, policy makers, and the private sector to discuss, exchange research, and take action on preserving and restoring ecosystem services in the content.

For more information on the ESAforD program click here.


News | 5 December 2016