Based on Agenda 2063 of the African Union, Agricultural development is considered to be at the peak of the policy agenda for African countries. However, agricultural development frequently clashes with biodiversity when it is required to reduce hunger and poverty, but it is now diminishing at a turbulent rate. The loss of biodiversity could lead to reduction of food security through the weakening of ecosystem services such as sustainability of water supplies, pollination and nutrient cycle. As a result of this, there might be loss of wild food sources.
According to a recent paper, researchers in ecology, economics and agronomy stated the significance of biodiversity-smart agricultural plans. They also argued using the account of a Zambian farmer that such strategies require a close attention to the dynamics of the agricultural labour. There is a loss of biodiversity when farming is more intense and the land expands. Statistically, 75 percent of agricultural growth is sourced from the expansion of farmlands into savannahs and forests in Africa. Thus, this results in loss of habitat and fragmentation.
Adoption of technologies reduce heavy labour for farmers.
Intense farming prevents expansion, but there may be less biological diversity in terms of landscape which often require more usage of chemicals and pesticides. The significance of biodiversity-friendly agriculture is getting more attention, however, the strength to encourage its practice frequently disregard trade-offs with the needs of farm labour. There was an argument that negligence of these needs will jeopardise the achievement and efforts of biological diversity conservation. The adoption of technologies such as herbicides and mechanisation will aid farmers in reduction of heavy labour.
Previous research in Zambia indicated that there is a reduction of time used by tractors to plough on land — from 226 to 10 hours per hectare. Also, herbicides are known or referred to as “mothers’ little helpers” in Burkina Faso because they reduce the workload of the women in the fields. Nevertheless, biodiversity can be negatively affected by the labour-saving technologies through spillover effects, farmland expansion, land degradation and farmland simplification. For instance, an earlier study in African countries like Mali, Benin, Kenya and Nigeria, showed that there are sometimes total removal of trees and hedges and changed plot sizes and shapes through mechanisation.
Farmers adopt technologies for high yields with low labour.
Hence, there is loss of healthy habitats, and farm diversity. Also, the consequences of pesticides can endanger water systems, insect populations and soil life if badly managed and regulated which is often the case. The functionality of biodiversity technologies have a contrary problem. Farmers do not always adopt the strategies as a result of the burden it adds to the labour. For instance, inter-cropping which is the planting of various crops very close to each other, and the growing of basins, the provision of good crops environment through shallow indentations in the soil.
A study in Zimbabwe observed that the planting of basins could require hard labour without frequently adding more yields. Usually, there is the adoption of technologies by farmers to provide stable and high yields but low labour, but they can be toxic to the conservation of biodiversity. The possible solution is to get machines adapted to the farm size. There can be easy manoeuvre around trees for smaller machinery and other landscape features needed for biodiversity. The combination of smart mechanical solution — precision spraying — and biological solutions — crop rotation — is a method to reduce the use of pesticide.
There is a need for a shift in policy making, and research and development.
Also, there is a reduction in the costs of biodiversity conservation, in aspects of yield and labour, for individual farmers by biodiversity-smart technologies which enhances the tendency of adoption. Financial compensation may be required if the conservation cost is higher than its benefits. The compensation could be in form of payment for ecosystem services or certification schemes. Additionally, a study in Ethiopia observed that there can be strategised multi-functional landscapes to work for people and biological diversity. It was argued that the development of biodiversity-smart agriculture needs a change in research and development, and a shift in policy making.