March 13, 2017 by Species Ecology
Pursuit for Sustainable Biodiversity Conservation: RAIN-FED Agrarian Economies are at Stake
About 60% of world food supply is being produced by small-holder farmers, of which majority of them depends on rain water for food production. Greater part of rural communities are peasants who principally owns small patch of lands with less than three acres, studies show that great number of small-scale farmers are growing food crops in either one or two acres. This is due to high costs associated with preparation of farm, purchasing of farming inputs as well as pruning frequencies. All of these needs a large sums of money of which the poorest local farmers’ cannot afford.
Villages in the vicinity of Udzungwa Mountains National Park (UMNP) in Tanzania: Immigration of agricultural communities to the potentially fragile Kilombero flood plain have been apparent due to the ‘slave-labor’ prospect of employment: thanks to Kilombero Sugar Company. However, the burgeoning and non-managed immigration imposes detrimental ecological impacts to the Kilombero flood plain and Udzungwa National Park. The Sugar Company lure peasants to grow sugarcane instead of staple crops which in this case is predominantly rice. This scenario jeopardize the future for the food security surrounding UMNP.
Changing weather patterns, such as a decreased precipitation rate, have been threatening both the agricultural yield and the park’s biodiversity for quite some time now. Because of this some primates like Sanje Mangabey: Udzungwa Mountains National Park’s iconic primates are now forced to feed on ‘fall-back food’–the food materials that are less nutritious due to lack of enough palatable foliage leaves in the ground layers of the rainforest.
Efforts for in-situ conservation is still challenging due to increment on human population largely stem from immigration around the villages. These people are resources dependent hence scourge firewood, both non timber and timber materials for building houses and bushmeat from the protected area, a situation that endanger the life of animals and conservation efforts at UMNP.
Rain-fed agriculture is predominantly practiced in remote areas of Udzungwa regions and many other parts of Tanzania. This is characterized by growing food crops in diminutive piece of land, and non technical and outdated farming methods. In Tanzania context, agricultural activities serve as a backbone for the economy and consequently contribute to large part to the gross domestic product (GDP).
Conclusively, it can be said that current erratic rainfall and extreme weather events, rain-fed agriculture face uncertain and bleak future. Natives should look irrigation scheme as a new tool to curb rainfall variability in tropical regions. Adopting new agricultural methods that is grounded to sustainable schemes can only help conserve the lands surrounding UMNP hence would decrease the anthropogenic pressures inside of the forest.