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You are here: Home Magazines Global edition Farming with nature

Farming with nature

This issue of LEISA Magazine looks at the contribution farming can make to the sustainability of life on earth on a broader scale – and the importance of wild biodiversity for the maintenance of the healthy landscapes and watersheds we all need to survive.

For rural people, managing biodiversity has always been a central part of their livelihood strategies. A diverse range of organisms contribute in different ways to agriculture and rural livelihoods - either directly, by providing food, medicines, timber, fuel, fodder, organic fertilizer, or cash income – or indirectly by providing “ecosystem services” such as biological pest control, pollination or organic matter decomposition.

The way we manage agriculture will have a major impact on the conservation of biodiversity, both on and off the farm. In this issue, we have tried to highlight some of the attempts that are taking place to achieve food production while preserving or enhancing wild biodiversity.

LEISA Magazine • 20.4 • December 2004

Table of contents:

  • 1 - 1
  • 2 - 3
  • 4 - 6
    For rural people, managing biodiversity has always been a central part of their livelihood strategies. A diverse range of organisms contribute in different ways to agriculture and rural livelihoods - either directly, by providing food, medicines, timber, fuel, fodder, organic fertilizer, or cash income – or indirectly by providing “ecosystem services” such as biological pest control, pollination or organic matter decomposition. For over two decades, ILEIA has considered “Farming with nature” to mean farming in a way that builds on natural processes, maintains a healthy environment and supports livelihoods at the local level. This issue of LEISA Magazine takes one step further: it looks at the contribution farming can make to the sustainability of life on earth on a broader scale – and the importance of wild biodiversity for the maintenance of the healthy landscapes and watersheds we all need to survive.
  • 7 - 9
    In North America, present day agriculture plays a major role in the rapid reduction of wild animal and bird populations. Agriculture has converted more and more natural habitats into land suitable for highly intensive, large-scale crop and livestock production.
  • 10 - 11
    The Guassa area of Menz in the central highlands of Ethiopia is one the very few areas in Ethiopia where a communitybased natural resource management system is operating. Known as the “Qero” system, this system has ancient roots but has managed to adapt to radically changing conditions. Over the years, it has enabled the sustainable utilization of this biodiversity-rich alpine ecosystem, which is home to many endemic species. Today the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme is assisting the communities to ensure the future viability of this system.
  • 12 - 13
    Indigenous honeybees play an important role in mountain ecosystems: they are the natural pollinators for a wide variety of mountain crops as well as indigenous plants. In the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the population and diversity of the well-adapted native bees is declining due to factors such as habitat loss, negative impacts of pesticides and herbicides, and the well-intended introduction of the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. Due to reduced pollination, there is a clear decline in the production and quality of fruit crops. A major reason for this development is the lack of awareness on the importance of pollinators for crop production, as well as lack of knowledge about the habits and management of bees. The promotion of beekeeping has focused only on honey production, neglecting the more valuable role of bees in pollination. Farmers are therefore usually unaware of the role of bees as well as the need for suitable “polliniser” varieties. ICIMOD is working to address the pollination issue in partnership with local people and grassroots networks.
  • 14 - 16
    The Talamanca region in the south of Costa Rica is the country’s poorest region in socio-economic terms, but the richest in terms of biodiversity and tropical forest ecosystems.
  • 17 - 17
    Cacao agroforests, especially indigenous shade systems, are among the tropical agroecosystems that support the highest levels of biodiversity. This article takes a closer look at research carried out in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica and suggests that highly biodiverse cacao systems do not necessarily exhibit low production, and an ecozoning approach might be the most useful way to maximise production and biodiversity conservation in the Cacao agroforests.
  • 18 - 20
    Bangladesh has the highest wetland to total land ratio in the world. Cultivation on floating beds, called soil-less agriculture or hydroponics, is an indigenous practice in the south-western part of Bangladesh. This practice is now receiving renewed interest as a potential solution for farmers whose lands have been waterlogged, and also for landless people. In addition to being highly productive, this system of cultivation makes use of local resources, in particular the masses of rapidly growing water hyacinths that choke the waterways. It is also an environmentally sustainable way to make use of wetland areas.
  • 21 - 21
    The Sinharaja World Heritage Site is Sri Lanka’s last viable remnant of virgin tropical rainforest. However, the areas bordering the reserve are being increasingly encroached by small-scale tea plantations. The clearing of steep and fragile slopes for expanding tea lands has led to topsoil exposure, heavy erosion, and a loss of soil fertility. Erosion on lower slopes destabilizes the soil in upper regions and prevents the regeneration of forest cover, and there are already signs that the change in vegetation is affecting water flow. This article looks at the effort of the Sewalanka Foundation to reintroduce a new buffer zone for the reserve by reducing the use of agrochemicals, introducing soil conservation measures and increasing the diversity of the tea fields through intercropping. These efforts are slowly helping to reduce the siltation of the Sinharaja watershed. More importantly, they have also increased sustainability and productivity of tea production on already cultivated lands
  • 22 - 23
    In 2003, a ban on vegetable growing on forest land in the highlands of Pangalengan, Indonesia, meant that more than 5000 people were denied their livelihoods. In response, farmers in the villages surrounding the forest decided to revitalize an already existing farmer’s group and to initiate a project called the “Friends of the forest”. Their aim was to find ways to conserve the forest while continuing to gain their livelihoods from it.
  • 24 - 25
    In Bhutan, intensification of livestock production has helped to ensure the future of the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park by reducing the grazing pressure that was threatening the regeneration of this old-growth forest. The key to increasing the impact of extension efforts was to introduce the various components of a more intensive livestock system with Jersey cross-breeds, giving special emphasis to the smart selection of fodder crops as this was considered to be the main bottleneck in adopting the improved cattle.
  • 26 - 28
    Holistic Management involves the use of a practical decision-making process that effectively deals with complex systems from a holistic perspective. This can bring a new understanding of resource management issues.The Africa Centre for Holistic Management in Zimbabwe has been able to demonstrate on its own property that the land, water and biological resource base can be healed. By taking in starving livestock from the Wange Community, the Africa Centre not only saved the animals, but by increasing the herd size from 100 to 600 animals was able to demonstrate how the herd size can be beneficial, if managed correctly. The land improved significantly in terms of forage production and ground cover over the next two years; and so did the condition of the animals within a single year. The villagers could see the changes for themselves and also noted that the Dimbangombe River was flowing once more.
  • 29 - 29
  • 30 - 30
    This brief article presents some impressions from a project in Kenya on conservation agriculture, sent in by Paul Wamai Mwangu, of the Kenya Network for Draught Animal technology (KENDAT). The project has a practical focus, introducing equipment for conservation agriculture as well as training local artisans to make the equipment.
  • 31 - 31
  • 32 - 33
  • 34 - 35
  • 36 - 36
    To assess the evidence that organic farming can help save biodiversity, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and English Nature carried out a literature review of scientific studies that compared biodiversity on organic and conventional farms. The review demonstrated clear benefits of organic agriculture to biodiversity throughout the whole food chain. This is mainly because no inorganic pesticides or fertilizers are used and also because crop and livestock production is often mixed, providing more “non-agricultural areas” such as hedgerows, and a mixture of different habitats that wildlife needs in order to thrive in the farmed environment.
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