We combine ecological science with innovation and tradition and integrate it with novel IT and knowledge to transform the way the world grows food. We deliver this knowledge to smallholder family farmers within the context of implementing ecological intensification and pollinator restoration . Our approach helps build resilient livelihoods, safeguard biodiversity, boost nutrition, sustainably manage the planet’s natural resources and respond to climate change.
World Bee Project Farms are a new holistic approach to resilience that look at food production and nutritional diversity at multiple scales, with socially based approaches from the farm right up to the global food system. World Bee Project Farms are linked to the World Bee Project Hive Network and participate in our globally-coordinated and regionally-balanced monitoring programme for honey bees.
Around 90 percent of the world’s 570 million family farms are owned and operated by over 1.5 billion people and play a key role in global food production and genetic diversity of food supply.These smallholder farming families own less than two hectares each but operate about 75% of the world’s agricultural land. Many are poor and have limited access to markets and services. Their choices are constrained, but they farm their own land and collectively produce food for a substantial proportion of the world’s population.
Today, the need for change to sustainable farmer-friendly agriculture is increasingly evident. We need to tackle the triple challenge of producing more food, creating more jobs and preserving the natural resource base, and small family farmers lie at the heart of the solution. When sustainable, ecological agriculture is introduced substantial gains in farmers’ income and an increase in abundance and diversity of pollinators can be achieved from devoting a quarter of cropland to flowering economic crops such as spices, oil seeds, medicinal and forage plants. As a result, crops are pollinated more efficiently, there were fewer pests such as aphids and greenfly, and average crop yields can increase by 79% providing farmers with additional income to improve their families’ wellbeing by educating children and paying for shelter and healthcare.
In all four different climatic regions a recent study by Stefanie Christmann shows that the total income of farmers increased, though the benefits were most marked on degraded land and farms without honeybees. The biggest gains were in semi-arid climates, where pumpkin yields rose 561%, aubergine 364%, broad bean 177% and melons 56%. In areas with adequate rain, tomato harvests doubled and aubergine went up 250%. In mountain fields, courgette production tripled and pumpkins doubled.
To support the role of bees in food production and farmer livelihoods our World Bee Project Hive Network data is stored and analysed on the Oracle Cloud and insights freely shared with beekeepers, smallholder farmers, scientists and policy makers.
We place ecological science at the centre of agriculture in smallholder farms. We combine innovation and tradition and with Oracle’s support we integrate it with novel IT and knowledge to transform the way the world grows food.
This approach can create a healthier and more sustainable food system with farmers using compost as fertilizer, taking steps to attract pollinators as well as predators that consume agricultural pests, and growing complementary crops for soil health.
In preparation for a larger scale future project that addresses sustainable farming challenges in India through development of ecologically intensified farming methods, the World Bee Project and the University of Reading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD) partnership in collaboration with G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, and the Himalayan Farmlands Initiative are starting with a training school and a pilot study in the Kotabagh region of the Indian Himalaya. Our shared initial goal is to identify specific challenges faced by farmers in this region as well as possible solutions. The solution we will test is ecological management of crop pollinators, creation of healthy productive soils, natural pest control and zero to minimal reliance on unsustainable use of fertilisers and pesticides.