AGP - Pollination
Photo: Dino Martins

Pollinators are an element of crop associated biodiversity, and provide an essential ecosystem service to both natural and agricultural ecosystems. In the case of agricultural ecosystems, pollinators and pollination can be managed ("planned" crop associated biodiversity) to maximize or improve crop quality and yield.

Pollination depends to a large extent on the symbiosis between species, the pollinated and the pollinator, and often is the result of intricate relationships between plant and animal - the reduction or loss of either affecting the survival of both. Many plants are wind pollinated, while animal pollinators include bees (over 25,000 bee species identified), and to a lesser extent butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and vertebrates (bats, squirrels, birds and some primates).

Approximately 80 percent of all flowering plant species are specialized for pollination by animals, mostly insects. The negative impact of the loss of pollinators is strongly felt in agricultural biodiversity. The role of pollinators is, among other things, to ensure reproduction, fruit set development and dispersal in plants, both in agroecosystems and natural ecosystems. In turn, plants need to exist in order for pollinators to be able to feed. Indeed, some plant species rely upon a few types of pollinators to provide pollination services. Some pollinators such as bees also provide food and additional income for rural families, in the form of honey and other by-products - thus, declining pollinator populations impact on the sustainable livelihoods of rural families. A decline in pollinator populations also affects plant biodiversity. Indigenous species particularly, have been subject to external pressures such as habitat destruction and fragmentation resulting from activities such as land clearing for agricultural purposes, pesticide use, tourism, and the introduction of exotic species.

Having recognized the decline of pollinators, and its effect on agricultural biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, at the Fifth Conference of Parties (COP V) in 2000, an International Initiative for the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Pollinators (also known as the International Pollinator Initiative - IPI) was established (COP decision V/5, section II), and requested the development of a plan of action. In April 2002, the Sixth Conference of Parties established the Plan of Action of the IPI.

The Plan of Action of the IPI consists of four basic Elements: (i) Assessment; (ii) Adaptive Management; (iii) Capacity Building; and (iv) Mainstreaming. Through its Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture, AGP has been coordinating and facilitating the implementation of the IPI by undertaking, in collaboration with numerous partners, activities that contribute to the implementation of these four elements, and to address the management of pollination services for sustainable agriculture.

The Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture provides guidance to member countries and relevant tools to use and conserve pollination services that sustain agro-ecosystem functions, and to formulate policies that will ensure sustainability of these ecosystem services.  To this effect, the Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture addresses a range of issues - some examples include: knowledge management of pollination services; the preparation of profiles from around the world, for best practices for the management of pollination services; working with other institutions to overcome the taxonomic impediment to pollinator conservation and use; and exploring other issues such as pollinator diversity and abundance on farms as well as linkages to climate change.

A major activity of the Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture has been the preparation of the FAO-executed global sized GEF-funded project on the "Conservation and Sustainable Management of Pollinators, through an Ecosystem Approach".  This project is being undertaken in Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and South Africa. Other countries with which the Global Action has collaborated include Lao PDR, where a major activity was to build in-country awareness and capacity on pollination issues.

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