Uttar Pradesh, India

 

THE POLLINATION DECLINE CRISIS IN INDIA

Pollinators are not only vital to our food supply, they are a key part of biodiversity that all forms of life depend on. 

Enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving sustainable development goals, as well as for helping farmers’ adaptation to climate change. 

The IPBES Report on Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production states that loss of pollinators can diminish availability of wild plants and crops that provide essential micronutrients for our diet, impacting health and nutrition security and risking more people suffering from folate and iron and vitamin A deficiency.

The World Bee Project and its partner the University of Reading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD) promote ecological intensification as a sustainable solution to pollination decline and food and nutrition insecurity.  The University of Reading is the most highly ranked UK institution for agriculture. It is in the top 1% worldwide.

 
 

We feel honoured to have had the kind support of Dr. Chandra Srivastava, Director of the Department of Entomology and Agriculture Zoology, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Banaras Hindu University (BHU), and Professor SVS Raju, head of Entomology at BHU, and All India Coordinator for the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).

The support from BHU enabled the World Bee Project, in partnership with the Banwasi Seva Ashram, to establish 19 apiculture projects in three villages to study the impact of incorporating managed Apis Mellifera (honey bees) into stressed agricultural landscapes. The BSA confirmed that they had no data available about honey bees or wild bees, and previous BSA efforts to keep honey bees had failed. 

It was a privilege to work with farmers in 3 villages and with the Banwasi Seva Ashram, a Gandhian voluntary organisation established in 1954 with the support of Govind Vallabh Pantji, first Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. The BSA has a history of successfully developing and implementing programmes to achieve Gramswarajya - simple productive cooperative self-sufficiency and self-reliance at the village level. The BSA’s land improvement work in 1969 - 1975 under the project 'Food for Work', benefitted 800 farmers by making water available to 1,200 acres of land and enabling rice cultivation. After 1975, the BSA improved a further 23,186 acres of land through the construction of traditional ‘bunds’ or earth dams, and irrigation towers.

 
 

IMPACT

By teaching apiculture to farming families we found that it was possible to enhance agricultural yields to improve food and nutrition security, enable farmers to raise additional cash through the sale of honey. As honey bees fly a distance of at least 3 kilometres to look for pollen and nectar, pollination services from our 19 beekeeping projects benefited over 460 farming families thus positively affecting the lives of around 4600 individuals in those families. Our project also generated a trans-village community of farmers taking pride in contributing to their environments, sharing their experiences of practical learning and supporting each other in pollinator-friendly actions and awareness of what pollinators need to survive and thrive given the extreme challenges of climate change, when temperatures soar beyond 40 degrees Celsius, scorching the fields and the forage for pollinators.

 
 

CONCLUSION

Promotion of managed beekeeping of the Apis Mellifera species (honey bees) may not be the ideal solution to pollination decline in Uttar Pradesh, or for that matter, possibly anywhere in India.

Although managed honey bees (Apis Mellifera) can enable farmers to improve their crop production in the short term and raise their incomes through the sale of honey, promoting a single species of pollinator is not likely to benefit food production or sustain livelihoods in the longer term because pollination is linked to pollinator diversity and density, forage density and diversity, agricultural practices, soil and water conditions, pesticides, and the challenges of climate change. 

In Uttar Pradesh, in India and worldwide, the regenerative ecological intensification approach to farming is the long-term promising solution to pollination decline, food insecurity, soil degradation and farmer productivity and livelihoods. Improving farmer livelihoods is important because farmer poverty poses long-term risks to sustainable agriculture. 

 

A HOLISTIC, REGENERATIVE APPROACH, ECOLOGICAL INTENSIFICATION RECOGNISES THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF ALL LIVING SYSTEMS

 

Ecologically intensified farming develops, restores and regenerates the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture. 

By conserving and expanding habitats and introducing diverse species of flowering plants it creates foraging resources for honeybees and diverse ‘wild’ pollinators and fosters more resilient and healthier pollinator populations. The boost in native biodiversity leads to a boost in pollination and in natural predators like ladybirds that eat aphids, and in turn a sustainable intensification of crops. By zero tilling, carefully designed crop rotation, composting and avoiding excessive use of pesticides, chemical fertilisers, water and fossil fuels, it regenerates and even improves degraded land by restoring the natural ability of the microbiology present in healthy soil to hold carbon. 

Ecologically intensified farming leads to higher yields from the same land surface, helping farmer adaptation to climate change and considerably improving the productivity of small-scale farmers and their livelihoods. Improving farmer livelihoods is important because farmer poverty poses long-term risks to sustainable agriculture.

To learn more please see this animated video

It was made within the framework of the EC’s 7th Framework Programme in partnership with the University of Reading and other universities.

 
The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading. The University of Reading is the most highly ranked UK institution for agriculture. It is in the top 1% worldwide. 

The School of Agriculture, Policy and Development at the University of Reading. The University of Reading is the most highly ranked UK institution for agriculture. It is in the top 1% worldwide. 

 
An estimated 88% of all flowering plant species rely to some extent on pollination by an animal vector. Recent changes in climate have already caused distribution shifts in insect pollinator species and this is projected to continue into the future. This has the potential to cause widespread disruptions of plant–pollinator interactions, as, for instance, plants and their pollinators become mismatched in time and space due to their different responses to warming. Climate change could therefore threaten genetic diversity and functioning in natural ecosystems and could exacerbate existing pressures facing the insect-pollinated crops that make up around a third of our diet.
— Jacob Bishop, Hannah E. Jones, Donal M. O’Sullivan, Simon G. Potts. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology, Volume 68, Issue 8, 1 April 2017