New partnership protects wild bees and increases farmer incomes
This spring, ICARDA and one of its Moroccan partners, the Office National du Conseil Agricole (ONCA), launched a nationwide campaign to scale out Farming with Alternative Pollinators (FAP). The FAP approach, which protects wild pollinators to increase farmer yields, is aligned with the country’s Plan Maroc Vert, a comprehensive and ambitious national agricultural strategy launched in 2008.
Wild pollinators are threatened in Morocco, and elsewhere, by the increasing use of chemicals, monoculture farming, habitat fragmentation, and tillage practices. However, wild pollinators are critical for agriculture, particularly in dryland areas, where agriculture has become increasingly dependent on pollinators over recent decades (Potts et al. 2016). Dryland farmers produce vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, faba bean, and many other pollinator-dependent crops, as they tend to provide higher revenues per drop of water.
The FAP approach
The FAP approach, which was developed by ICARDA scientist Dr. Stefanie Christmann in Central Asia, is now being replicated across other dryland regions. This low-cost strategy sets aside around 25 percent of every field for habitat enhancement: growing additional marketable plants like oil seeds, spices, or food crops attracts a higher diversity of pollinators, thereby enhancing the productivity of the main crop. The strips also attract native enemies which reduce the abundance of pests, and analysis suggests that farmers adopting the FAP approach can expect to receive net incomes that are significantly higher per surface area than those received by farmers who opt to grow the same main crop across entire fields.
Scaling out FAP in Morocco
ONCA has around 70 mobile trainers who will travel around Morocco promoting FAP to farmers, using both Farmer Field Schools and information and communication technologies (ICT). As part of this campaign, ICARDA has conducted a first round of ‘trainings of trainers,’ targeting ONCA staff who will promote the FAP approach in remote areas using ICTs such as VHF radios.
The first training, which targeted 17 mobile trainers and five employees from ONCA headquarters, encompassed a range of issues, including: pollinator diversity, habitat requirements and their importance, threats to pollinators, and communicating the benefits of FAP to farmers. ONCA is also promoting FAP at SIAM in Meknès this week (16-21 April 2019), one of Morocco’s most important annual agricultural events.
More training events will take place during 2019 and 2020 - in order to continuously build capacity and ensure that FAP can reach even the most remote farms through direct guidance and dialogue. These trainings are planned for ONCA staff, as well as other national stakeholders, including farmer associations.
Aichi Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals
The pilot collaboration between ICARDA and ONCA will contribute to Aichi Targets on biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals. The collaboration is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI) project ‘Conservation of pollinator diversity for enhanced climate change resilience,’ funded by the Federal German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.
One of the project’s aims is to explain the value of biodiversity and pollinators to people: farmers, students, teachers, governments, and the general population. It will also raise awareness about the need to protect these species, and build a readiness and capacity to take action. The project also targets the negative impacts of modern agriculture, since in addition to threats posed by climate change, the use of chemicals, tillage, monoculture, and habitat fragmentation limit the availability of nectar and pollen.
Given that wild pollinators do not usually fly further than a 50-2000 meter radius and depend on small habitats, agricultural land requires more diverse nectar and pollen resources, safe nesting sites, and lower chemical levels. Flowering strips of oil seeds or spices between faba bean and orchards can also serve as ‘corridors’ for wild pollinators moving to other sites.
Because wild pollinators depend on small habitats, their protection requires significant commitment and engagement with many local stakeholders. For FAP to be effective, a mass base of local actors needs to become more aware and active. Since ONCA has developed close relationships with Moroccan farmers, the organization is sharing its experience on out-scaling FAP with national agricultural research systems in Morocco, and as the project proceeds, another six countries across the Middle East and North Africa.
For more information, please contact ICARDA’s Stefanie Christmann: S.Christmann@cgiar.org