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We are combating climate change and promoting biodiversity by increasing crop and regional farm diversity as well as targeted habitat conservation and restoration.

Pollination is the highest agricultural contributor to yields worldwide, contributing far beyond any other agricultural management practice. Working alongside farmers we aim to develop practices to boost pollination and natural pest regulation in crops to help increase yields, reduce reliance on inputs and minimise negative impacts on the environment.

In preparation for a larger scale future project that addresses sustainable farming challenges in India, The World Bee Project initiated ecological intensification projects in India, with its UK partner the University of Reading School of Agriculture, Policy and Development (SAPD) and in collaboration with G B Pant University of Agriculture and Technology renowned for their expertise in agroecology, bee keeping and farmer extension as well as an extensive work with small holder farmers across Uttarakhand and the Himalayan Farmlands Initiative which works with local farmer communities, organisations and governing authorities.

We are also collaborating with M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF), a not-for-profit trust, aiming to accelerate the use of modern science for sustainable agricultural and rural development among smallholders. MSSRF’s core strength is in strengthening Science – Society linkages by engaging with diverse local populations, conserving traditional crop genetic resources, and dissemination of sustainable agriculture practices with due emphasis on the use of biological inputs among farmers in diverse farming systems located in Tamil Nadu and the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotpot.

Small holder farmers and landless labourers face many challenges to transitioning to ecologically sensitive farming practices that could provide them a level of economic security that the current intensive practices may not research. Our proposed activities will provide information for stakeholders to make evidence-based decisions on land management that will promote economic development through increased productivity as well as reducing the cost of production as well as ecological sustainability.

Our project aims to explore opportunities for ecologically intensive farming interventions in economically important crops in North and South India. We will quantify the impact of contrasting landscapes on biodiversity and ecosystem service provision; explore barriers and incentives that influence farmer behaviour towards more environmentally sustainable practices; and focus on stakeholder engagement from inception through to dissemination of project result.

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Farming employs more than 40% of India’s population of 1.3 billion, with a significant proportion being small holders and landless labourers.

Climate change, loss of land to urban developers, increasing costs of inputs and degradation of soil health, water resources and local biodiversity are some of the threats to the livelihoods of the farming community and their capacity to farm sustainably. Indian agro-ecosystems are currently transitioning from traditionally intensive land management with high agro-chemical inputs to a more ecologically intensive agricultural practice. These trends are driven by an increasing awareness and market demand for sustainable food production. However, there is still a dearth of evidence to convince traditional small holders to reduce agro-chemical input and inform how biodiversity friendly management practices can provide enhanced productivity, reduce cultivation costs and increase sustainability.

The concept of Ecological Intensification (EI) aims to enhance crop productivity, by including regulating and supporting ecosystem services management into agricultural practices. Through effective management of crop pollinators, natural pest control and by promoting healthy productive soils, EI has real potential for improving productivity and sustainability in farming systems across the world.

By adopting an ecological approach to farming, growers can make the most of the biodiversity supported in these areas such as pollinators and natural predators of crop pests, in order to produce more diverse and higher value crops more sustainably and with less negative impact on the local environment (e.g. wildlife protection and reduced pollution). But farmers need local evidence and support to develop and implement effective tools.

Globally, 90% of 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 and  collectively produce food for a substantial proportion of the world’s population.

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