What Works: Innovations that protect both agriculture and wildlife

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By Matt Styslinger

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the rate of wildlife extinction is currently 100 to 1,000 times higher than the natural rate because of human activities, including urban development and farming.

Rural farmers and pastoralists can be key partners in conserving wildlife (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Unfortunately, rural farmers and pastoralists often work in direct conflict with wildlife. But as major land and resource users, farmers are also key partners in conserving wildlife. Through education and activities that support the livelihoods of farmers and pastoralists, agriculture can function in harmony with wildlife.

Mokolodi Wildlife Reserve in Botswana used to be known more for raising livestock than protecting wildlife. After years of ranching degraded the land, the owner decided to devote the area to protecting elephants, giraffes, impala, kudu, crocodiles, hippos, ostrich, warthogs, and various other animals and birds. But the reserve hasn’t stopped raising food. Park staff teach local farmers about conserving and protecting wildlife and the environment, but also about permaculture farming techniques that work in balance with the environment. By growing indigenous vegetables, recycling water for irrigation, and using organic fertilizers—including elephant and other wildlife dung—the reserve’s education center is demonstrating how to grow nutritious food with very little water or chemical inputs.

In much of rural southern and East Africa, tensions between farmers and wildlife run high. Elephants or buffalo, for example, eat and trample crops. Animals like elephants, buffalo, crocodiles, and hippos can also be dangerous to people and livestock. The Wildlife Conservation Society is educating people about the economic benefits that can be derived from wildlife tourism and related industries. They are also improving access to veterinary services to deal with common livestock diseases. With this approach they have been able to raise the threshold of tolerance for wildlife among pastoralists and farmers. Community Markets for Conservation works to improve economic opportunities for farmers by diversifying their skills. By raising livestock and bees, growing organic rice, using improved irrigation and fisheries management, and other practices, farmers do not have to resort to poaching for extra income and food.

In the U.K., the Co-operative Group is working to conserve the country’s invertebrate pollinators—such as honeybees, hoverflies, butterflies, and moths—by establishing habitat. The country has seen 20 to 30 percent losses of honeybee populations in the last few years. The Co-operative’s Plan Bee project includes establishing long rows of bee-friendly habitats across the country to act as bee corridors. By distributing 900,000 packets of wildflower seeds, and supporting members of the Co-operative to become beekeepers, the organization is ensuring that crops of strawberries, raspberries, apples, and pears will continue to be pollinated by honeybees and other natural pollinators.

These are just a few of the ways that farming and wildlife conservation can go hand in hand. Many more innovations are out there. Do you know of any innovations that are helping to support both agriculture and wildlife?

Tell Nourishing the Planet what works and have your answers featured on the blog. Email me at Dnierenberg@Worldwatch.org or tweet your response to @WorldWatchAg.

Matt Styslinger is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To read more about ‘What Works,’ see: What Works: Improving Health with Agriculture, What works: Making the Most of Small Spaces, For Sharing the Best in Agricultural Innovations, Nourishing the Planet Asks You: What Works?, and For Sharing the Best in Agricultural Innovations, Nourishing the Planet Asks You: What Works?

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.

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