Sustainable delivery of pollination services to strengthen rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa

This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran between 2008 and 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.

Two-thirds of our major food plants depend on pollinators, and honey and beeswax produced by wild and managed honey bees and stingless bees is an important source of food and income worldwide.

However, multiple interacting threats are currently causing declines in wild and managed bees around the world, suggesting that the pollination and food services provided by pollinators might be under threat.

Indeed, recent evidence suggests that the expansion in area of pollinator-dependent crops is outstripping the availability of pollinators. While in developed areas, we can diversify or change diets and farming patterns, many small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa do not have this option. However, their incomes and livelihoods could be improved with management and policy measures based on sound scientific understanding of the drivers, pressures and impacts of pollinator declines in sub-Saharan Africa.

Our project aimed to identify the knowledge and capacity gaps and technological challenges hampering sustainable delivery of crop pollination and livelihoods supported by bee products in rural sub-Saharan Africa. To achieve this, we reviewed the evidence for pollinator-dependence in crop pollination and ecosystem-dependence of honey production to clearly frame the scientific challenges in linking climate and land use to pollination services and those in linking pollinator-derived products to markets and livelihood improvement in sub-Saharan Africa.

This information formed the basis for a full ESPA grant application aimed at developing and testing scientific tools to improve delivery of pollinator-dependent services and to evaluate and implement management and policy options for sustainable use of pollinator-derived products in rural livelihoods and trade.

We developed and evaluated five key areas: 1) improving management of agro-ecosystems and pollinators for service provision; 2) assessing the role of pollinator services for cash/subsistence farmer/beekeeper livelihoods; 3) enhancing the pro-poor benefits derived from pollinators; 4) prediction of, and adaptation to, climate and land use change impacts on pollinator-dependent agriculture, and; 5) policy options and capacity building.

To achieve this we: 1) reviewed pollinator dependency of sub-Saharan African crops; 2) reviewed socio-ecological factors affecting livelihood benefits derived from pollinator populations in sub-Saharan Africa; 3) held a workshop at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi "Towards sustainable pollinator-dependent services"; identified the key gaps, approaches, and successful management interventions to improve pollinator and pollination services and their role in rural livelihoods in sub-Saharan Africa; 3) held a workshop in Leeds "Drivers, pressures and impacts of pollinator/pollination-derived products" which explored existing and new methods to address problems and opportunities in pollinator-dependent agriculture affecting livelihoods, products and marketing and needed to mitigate impacts to land use and climate change and linkage to policy makers, and; 4) mapped the need for scientific and policy training and capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa.

Focussing on two closely-linked ecosystem services allowed us to meet all four ESPA objectives for these services and at a large spatial scale (sub-Saharan Africa, participants of 8-12 countries expected at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology workshop). We aimed to (i) create a strong evidence-base on pollinator-dependent services, their management, human use and pathways to sustainable poverty reduction; (ii) develop an innovative, interdisciplinary socio-ecological research framework to investigate current and predict future responses of plant-pollinator systems to multiple drivers; (iii) use our consortium networks (e.g. International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology, BfD, Apimondia, Food and Agriculture Organisation - FAO) as a starting point for engagement and communication with policy makers, practitioners and decision makers; (iv) survey training and capacity building needs which would improve north-south and south-south research partnerships and southern researchers' research capacity.

Lead Principal Investigator
Organisation: Naturalis Biodiversity Center
Country: Netherlands
Principal Investigator
Organisation: University of Reading
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Reading
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Reading
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: National Agricultural Research Org
Country: Uganda
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Cape Coast
Country: Ghana
Co Investigator
Organisation: Int Ctr of Insect Physiology and Ecology
Country: Kenya
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Leeds
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Leeds
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Leeds
Country: United Kingdom
Researcher
Organisation: University of Reading
Country: United Kingdom