PROJECT TOPIC: STRATEGIES FOR INVOLVING RURAL FARMERS IN AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION IN AKWA IBOM STATE, NIGERIA.
The conservation of biodiversity is one aspect of environment, which has recently received
global attention. Biodiversity refers to the variety and variability among living organisms and
the ecological complexes in which they occur (Board on Science and Technology for
International Development (BOSTID), 2002. It is a term used to describe the degree of
nature’s variety including both the number and frequency of ecosystems, species or genes in
a given assemblage. It is essentially synonymous with life on the earth. It is usually
Journal of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences Volume 2, December 2010
© 2010 Cenresin Publications
considered at three different levels: genetic diversity, specie diversity and ecosystem
diversity. Genetic diversity is the sum total of genetic characteristics of individual plants,
animals and other living organisms inhabiting the earth. Such characteristics may include
rapid growth, high yields, diseases and pests resistance, and environmental adaptation.
Specie diversity refers to the variety of living organisms on earth, while ecosystem diversity
refers to the variety of habitats, biotic communities and ecological processes in the biosphere
as well as the tremendous diversity within ecosystems in terms of habitat differences and the
variety of ecological processes.
The concept of agricultural biodiversity or agrobiodiversity as it is sometimes referred could
be identified within a macro concept of biodiversity. Agricultural biodiversity is restricted to
plants and animals used in commerce or having potential use (Srivastava, Smith and Ferno,
2001). It is the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds, species, cultivated, reared or
wild) used directly for food and agriculture; the diversity of species that support production
(soil biota, pollinators, predators, etc.) and those in the wider environment that support
agroecosystems (agricultural, pastoral. forest and aquatic), as well as the diversity of
agroecosystems themselves (Food and Agriculture Organization, 2008) .Agroecosystems are
those ecosystems that are used for agriculture, and comprise polycultures, monocultures and
mixed systems including crop-livestock systems (rice-fish), agroforestry agrosilvo pastoral
systems, aquaculture as well as rangelands, pastures and fallow lands (Pimbert, 2009).
Agricultural biodiversity is of immense benefit to humanity. Man depends on various livestock
and crop species for food, fuel, fibre, medicine, drugs and raw materials for a host of
manufacturing technologies and purposes. The productivity of agricultural system is as a
result of a continuous alteration of once wild plant and animal germplasms. Also genetic
engineering especially in. the pharmaceutical and food processing industries uses agrogenetic
resources from sources worldwide. Besides these direct values, agricultural
biodiversities arc important parts of the processes that regulate the earth’s atmospheric,
climatic, hydrologic and biochemical cycles. It provides local ecological services including the
protection of watersheds, cycling of nutrients, combating erosion, enriching soil, regulating
water flow, trapping sediments, mitigating erosion and controlling pest population (Ehrenfeld,
Furthermore, agrobiodiversity holds and aesthetical values and also forms the basis
for sustainable rural development and resource management. In most rural areas of Akwa
Ibom State, the diversity of local plants and animals is being harnessed for sustainable
economic development. Locally adapted traditional animal breeds (sheep, goats, cattle), crop
varieties (fruit trees, fodder plants and cereals) and wild fruits are being explored to generate
local products jobs, income and environmental care.
Inspite of the enormous potentialities of agrobiodiversity in retaining plants, animals, soils,
and water as well as serving as the foundation of sustainable development, most of the
Strategies for Involving Rural Farmers in Agricultural Biodiversity
Conservation in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria
Camilus Bassey Ben
environmental discussions in this regard draw attention to its being increasingly subjected to
devastation and loss. The loss of agrobiodiversity is a relative phenomenon. Blaide and
Broodfield (2007) maintained that agrobiodiversity is lost when it suffers a reduction in
intrinsic qualities or a decline in its capabilities or complete extinction resulting from ‘a
causative factor or a combination of factors which reduce its physical, chemical or biological
status hence restricting its productive capacity. It also involves a loss of utility or potential
utility or the reduction or change of features or extinction of agro species which could not be
replaced (Dumsday, 2007).
Akwa Ibom State occupies one of the geographical zones located in the rainforest belt – an
area known for high density of agro-genetic diversity. Throughout its ecological zones, the
diversity of agroecosystem is being rapidly eroded. This erosion may be primarily due to
intensive resource exploitation and extensive alteration of habitats. Other associated factors
include: the neglect of indigenous knowledge of agrobiodiversity conservation institutions and
management systems; the blueprint approach to development whereby monoculture systems
and uniform technologies are promoted; the quest for the transnational corporations that
market agricultural inputs and food and fibres for commercial profits and
uncontrolled over-production; inequitable access to and control over land, water, trees and
genetic resources on he part of local people; market pressures and the under-valuation of
agricultural biodiversity; demographic factors and oil spillage.
It is acclaimed fact that rural farmers often have profound and detailed knowledge of agrospecies
and the related ecosystem’s with which they come in contact and have developed
effective ways of ensuring they are used sustainably (McNeely, Miller, Reid, Mittermeier, &
Werner, 2000). However, they are constrained by a number of problems in their attempt to
adopt conservation systems that sustain its own capital – agricultural resources of plant and
animal sources. According to FAO (2009), the factor which causes a gap between the desired
and actual farmer behaviour in conservation border on knowledge, motivation and
technology, type of incentives and disincentives, land use, population growth and poverty
McNeely et al (2000) noted that at its most fundamental level agrobiodiversity is threatened
because people are out of balance with their environment. Benefits are being gained from
exploiting agricultural resources without paying the full cost of such exploitation. They
identify six main obstacles to greater progress in conserving agricultural biodiversity. These
a. Development objectives give insufficient value to agro-resources
b. Agro-resources are exploited for , not for meeting the legitimate needs of local
c. The species and ecosystem upon which human survival depend are still poorly known.
d. Conservation activities by most organization s have had to focus too narrowly.
Journal of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences Volume 2, December 2010
e. Institutions assigned responsibility for creating awareness on the need for
conservation among rural farmers has lacked sufficient resources to do the job.
On insufficient value being given to agro-resources in the national and private development
objectives, McNeely et al pointed out that maintaining a nation’s agro-agricultural diversity is
integral to maintaining its agricultural wealth, but the importance of species and ecosystem is
seldom sufficiently considered in the formulation of national development policies. Rural
farmers do not consciously consider the value of species and ecosystems in their farm
practices. Development tends to emphasize short-term exploitation to earn income or foreign
exchange rather than long-term sustainable utilization of agricultural resources. Farmers
focused on their expressed immediate needs and tend to seek relatively short-term returns
on their investments. Uncontrolled use of agricultural resources by farmers contributes to
specie extinction and loss of agricultural biodiversity. McNeely et al also pointed out that
most conservation efforts made by the farmers have addressed a small species such as
ruminants, monogastrics, poultry, major species of plants or certain tree species. Farmers
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