News

Conserving Pollinators

April 18, 2012

UNEO News Centre

As allergy season starts we are all reminded of pollen. However what it is often considered just an annoying side effect of the Spring, it's actually a key factor in both human managed and natural terrestrial ecosystems.

Pollination is critical for food production and human livelihoods, and directly links wild ecosystems with agricultural production systems. The vast majority of flowering plant species only produce seeds if animal pollinators move pollen from the anthers to the stigmas of their flowers. Without this service, many interconnected species and processes functioning within an ecosystem would collapse. Several highly localized crop pollination failures have drawn attention to the "pollination issue".

Recognizing the dimensions of a "pollination crisis" and its links to biodiversity and human livelihoods, the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000 made the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators a priority. A number of regional initiatives, programs and projects are working toward a common goal of promoting the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of pollinator diversity in agriculture and related ecosystems.

One of this is the Global Pollination Project on "Conservation and Management of Pollinators for Sustainable Agriculture, through an Ecosystem Approach". With managed honeybee populations rapidly declining and more crops being grown under intensive systems, there is good reason to identify, in multiple agroecosystems and ecologies the practices that will prevent the loss of pollination services. Unfortunately, the level of capacity to manage pollination services, and the public awareness of their importance is very low, both in traditional and modern societies. Seven countries (Brazil, Ghana, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Nepal and South Africa) are working with FAO through a Full-sized GEF/UNEP/FAO project that addresses the need to identify practices and build capacity in the management of pollination services.

The development objective of the project is improved food security, nutrition and livelihoods through enhanced conservation and sustainable use of pollinators. The immediate objective is to harness the benefits of pollination services provided by wild biodiversity for human livelihoods and sustainable agriculture, through an ecosystem approach in selected countries.

The project is running from 2009 to 2013. The anticipated project outcomes are:

  • A consolidated knowledge base, integrating traditional and scientific knowledge established. 
  • Good agricultural practices for pollinator conservation and sustainable use identified, tested, implemented, documented and promoted. 
  • Enhanced capacity for conservation and sustainable use of pollinators developed. 
  • Awareness of conservation and sustainable use of pollinators for the general public and for policymakers enhanced. 

The project seeks to show how the services of pollination can be conserved and used sustainably in agriculture through the application of the ecosystem approach. Project outcomes are being tested, evaluated and showcased in a set of representative farming systems in seven countries with a wide diversity of ecological zones and farming patterns.

Through the development of good agricultural practices for pollination services, built on an extended knowledge base, capacity is being increased and awareness raised to promote wise management of pollinators and their services. A set of tools, methodologies, strategies and best management practices are being produced that can be applied to pollinator conservation efforts worldwide. The project is coordinated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, with implementation support from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

For further information about the project, visit the Global action on Pollination Service for Sustainable Agriculture or contact: Barbara.Herren@fao.org