Wild pollinators (such as wild bees, bumblebees, flies, butterflies, midges and wasps) are known to increase agricultural yields, but their diversity is declining rapidly with climate change, monocultures, and the excessive use of pesticides. This situation is threatening the production of the foods we take for granted.

The value of pollinators is estimated at US$220 billion each year, representing 9.5% of the world’s agricultural food production.

(Source: Ecological Economics, 2009)

In a first-of-its kind scientific approach, ICARDA scientists developed and introduced ‘Farming with alternative pollinators’ (FAP) in Uzbekistan, and subsequently introduced it into Morocco in 2015 with replicable results. Farming with alternative pollinators is a self-supporting way to proactively conserve a diversity of pollinators. To attract many different pollinators, 25% of each plot is used to grow a variety of crops, such as coriander, sunflower and pumpkin, along with locally made nesting support, while the main crop is grown on the remaining three-quarters of the plot. Control fields grow the main crop in the entire area. Farming with alternative pollinators doubled the harvest of sour cherry in Uzbekistan and, in both Uzbekistan and Morocco, at least doubled the yield of cucumber with the potential for an even greater increase. Since Morocco hosts vastly different species to Uzbekistan, these results demonstrate the replicability of the FAP approach. The approach will be extended in Morocco to faba bean.

In contrast to the method of seeding wildflower strips, which is promoted by most researchers globally, FAP makes the whole field area productive, providing a source of extra income to farmers. The results are helping scientists develop a ‘blueprint’ that farmers can use to enhance pollination services and boost their yields at very low costs – a win-win strategy for farmers and biodiversity (see FAP guide for smallholders).

Growing 10 to 12 crops can provide a 'buffet' for pollinators to feed on and gain nectar and pollen for three seasons.

Stefanie Christmann, Environmental Governance Expert, ICARDA

(Reference: Christmann, S. and Aw-Hassan A.A., 2012. Farming with alternative pollinators (FAP) – an overlooked win-win-strategy for climate change adaptation. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 161: 161–164.)