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Dr Bernard Baleba

The bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other pollinators all need a hand to keep crops growing. Dr Bernard Baleba wants to restore their habitats and create safer farming practices that don’t rely on harmful pesticides.

His project proposal for the JWO Research Grant is entitled “Promoting Pollinator Diversity and Crop Yield through Targeted Habitat Restoration in East African Agroecosystems”.

Baleba says he has “a deep concern for the interconnected issues of food security, biodiversity loss, and sustainable agriculture in Africa. The alarming decline in pollinator populations, which are vital for ecosystem health and agricultural productivity, poses a significant threat to smallholder farmers and the broader environment.”

He says “the urgency of restoring pollinator habitats and promoting sustainable farming practices is driven by the need to enhance ecosystem resilience and ensure the continuation of essential ecosystem services”.

He says that “factors such as habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change have contributed to the loss of pollinator diversity and abundance, leading to reduced crop pollination and yield instability. Without effective conservation measures, this trend jeopardises food security, livelihoods, and ecosystem resilience across the continent. Addressing this challenge requires urgent action to understand the drivers of pollinator decline, identify effective conservation strategies, and promote sustainable land management practices that support pollinator populations while ensuring agricultural productivity.”

Baleba hopes that his research will address the decline of pollinator populations in East African agroecosystems through targeted habitat restoration, integrated pest management, and community engagement. By combining ecological principles with innovative technologies, “the project will enhance pollinator abundance, diversity, and crop pollination services, promoting agricultural sustainability and biodiversity conservation”.

More broadly, Baleba says that “one of the most concerning environmental and conservation issues in Africa is the loss and fragmentation of habitats due to human activities like deforestation, urban expansion, and agricultural development. This loss of natural habitats poses a significant threat to biodiversity, diminishing available space for wildlife and disrupting ecological equilibrium. It leads to the deterioration of ecosystems, species loss, and interference with vital ecological processes. Moreover, habitat loss intensifies conflicts between humans and wildlife as animals are compelled to encroach into human settlements in search of resources. Addressing this challenge necessitates a comprehensive approach involving sustainable land-use planning, effective resource management, conservation policies, and community involvement to safeguard and restore critical habitats while fostering human welfare and advancement.”

This is why, he says, that “overall, my goal is to ensure that we can grow enough food while also protecting the natural environment and supporting the people who rely on these ecosystems for their livelihoods.”

 

Dr Bernard Baleba holds a PhD in Entomology from the University of Pretoria. He says he enjoys watching manga cartoons with his daughter, and is a big fan of amapiano music.