Business News of 2014-09-01

Farmers warned against killing bees, flies

Entomologists working on the Global Pollination Project (GPP) in the country have cautioned farmers to desist from destroying pollinators -- especially bees and flies -- in order to boost farm yields.

They argued that bees, flies and other pollinators in the farm need to be protected during spraying exercises -- as using “unnecessary” mass-spraying methods to destroy the insects that help crops to blossom affects agricultural output.

“Increasing the presence of pollinators can definitely increase the yield. If you do mass-spraying, you kill the pests and the pollinators. So before you spray en-masse, have in mind that there are pollinators and protecting them will help,” Dr. Kwame Aidoo, Project Manager of the GPP, said.

The Global Pollination Project Ghana is a five-year project spanning 2009-2015 that aims to improve food security, nutrition and livelihoods through enhanced conservation and sustainable use of pollinators. The project also seeks to harness the benefits of pollination by insects for sustainable agriculture through an eco-system approach in selected countries.

Studies have shown that bees pollinate about 63 percent of the world’s cultivated crops, while flies contribute 19 percent. Bats on the other hand pollinate 6.5 percent of crops while the rest is done by wasps, beetles, birds, butterflies and moths.

According to the entomologists, pollinators play a crucial role in the development of plants since they increase the chances of them bearing fruit.

They therefore urged farmers to be friendly toward the insects and develop strategic ways of getting rid of them, instead of relying on mass-spraying activities which affect efforts to conserve pollinators.

“This project does not agree to mass-spraying. You should spray appropriately. You observe your farm and note the times that pollinators come in to work. Some chemicals are friendly to bees while others are not.

“You can put in fertiliser, irrigate effectively, and do all other agricultural practices that are necessary for quality output. But if you exclude pollination, you have zero yield; you do not earn anything,” Dr. Aidoo added.

Ghana is part of seven countries -- including Brazil, Nepal, India, Kenya, Pakistan, and South Africa -- participating in the Global Pollination Project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Ghana Pollination Project has so far selected three priority crops at three centres: Bobiri-Kubease at Ejisu (cocoa); Dodowa and Somanya (mango); and Mankessim (garden eggs) where farmers are empowered to engage in pollinator-friendly agriculture through the ecosystem approach.

Dr. Aidoo noted that climate change factors like drought, flooding, temperature changes and human activities like logging, deforestation, surface mining, bush fires, urbanisation, wild honey hunting, palm wine tapping and pesticide use must all be controlled.

“Pollinator populations can be conserved if efforts are made to deal with these factors. If palm wine tappers will cover their fermentation vats, bees will not be drowned. If honey hunters become beekeepers and use protective clothing and smokers to collect wild honey, there will be many wild colonies of bees.”

Prof. Peter Kwapong, the National Project Coordinator, explained further that since agriculture accounts for 22 percent of Ghana’s GDP and employs about half of the country’s population, there is a need to protect and conserve pollinators in order to boost agricultural output.

“There will be a 90 percent reduction in cocoa production, with mangoes seeing a 40-90 percent reduction while garden eggs will go down by between 10-40 percent if pollination activities are curtailed.”

Dr. Charles Annoh from the Central University also noted that conservation of pollinators is essential for food security and biodiversity conservation.

“Conserving pollinators in an ecosystem means preserving the essential links between plants and animals that ensure successful reproduction of plants.”

Fudu Baba Nkyem, Farm Manager at Hydrotech Farms and Trading, said that since the project was implemented at his farm he has seen a tremendous jump in yield.

“Before the project commenced we were harvesting about 5-10 tonnes of mango per season on about 35 acres of farmland. But now we are harvesting about 150 tonnes of mangoes per season and we believe that can still be improved upon.”

Mr. Nkyem urged other farmers to practise pollinator-friendly methods to maximise yield and increase revenue. “Desist from spraying the bees and flies when they come, because they play a critical role in the life of a plant”.

Source: B&FT
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