The term nature represents different concepts to different people around the world. To some, nature represents mother earth, ecosystems, and while to others it is biodiversity. Nature and its immeasurable contributions to mankind are crucial for the existence of humanity, and for good quality life. With the rising population and increasing urbanization, there has been a high demand for food, energy, and materials, which unfortunately has been over-stretching nature, to a point that its ability to provide such services in the future is indefensible. Biodiversity, which represents varieties and variability of life on earth, is decreasing fast and furiously. Obviously, mankind takes the bigger blame, which can be a good thing because it also means that the mechanisms to heal mother earth are right here with us. However, we cannot be able to fix Mother Nature with the same ways we used to destroy it, as the famous wise saying suggests.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is an astute reminder of the significance of biodiversity to mankind, and perhaps it ought to awaken in us the desire to create harmony between man and nature.
The International Day for Biological Diversity is an astute reminder of the significance of biodiversity to mankind, and perhaps it ought to awaken in us the desire to create harmony between man and nature. Nature provides the world with food, feeds for animals, medicine, and materials that are essential for well-being and cultural purposes. For example, about 4 billion people worldwide depend on natural medicine when they fall ill, while most pharmaceutical drugs used to cure many illnesses are either derives from nature, or are synthetic drugs inspired by nature.
Decline of Biodiversity
The rate of extinction of plant and animal species as well as the decline of species within ecosystems have been described as unprecedented. A landmark report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), notes that about 1 million species are under threat of extinction, many of which have just a few decades. The report further says that 9% of the animal species which are domesticated have already been extinct by 2016, with thousands of others under threat (Ipbes, 2019). The exploitation of domesticated animals for meat is the biggest reason behind shrinking varieties and numbers, and this is set to continue to happen unless alternatives for meat such as soy-based products like tofu are popularized. As a matter of fact, increasing production of livestock has had depletive outcomes towards natural ecosystems.
In history, 6 000 – 7 000 species have been cultivated for food. Yet, today only three crops provide more than 40 percent of our daily calories (FAO, 2018). It is unfortunate that a lot of crop varieties that were traditionally grown are no longer part of our dinner plates, yet most of these crops were loaded with good quality nutrients. Indeed, we are lacking in these powerful nutrients, and by so doing, our bodies are becoming weaker and less able to fight diseases. In Kenya, there is a strong reliance (read obsession) on maize, yet traditionally people would depend on sorghum or even millet. There is a need to diversify crops in order to improve food and nutrition security in Kenya.
Permaculture and Biodiversity
The good news is that there is something that can be done to reverse the process of biodiversity loss; conserve the remaining species under threat, and restore things to normalcy. Nature, through its efficient ecological processes, tries to maintain a steady supply of fresh air, water, healthy soils, regulates climate, provides with pollinators, and minimizes impacts of natural catastrophes. In order to help nature regenerate itself much better, we should adopt principles that are nature friendly.
Bill Mollison, one of the founders of permaculture has said: “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system.”
Permaculture teaches us to view nature from a cyclic point of view, meaning that all elements have a role to play and that they are important. It seeks to imitate in our agro-ecosystems whatever is naturally found in nature. There have been remarkable success stories about how, through application of permaculture, tracts of land that were barren and unattractive were transformed into productive lands that attracted beneficial insects and animals. For instance, through permaculture, Caleb, who hails from a village adjacent Lake Victoria, was able to transform his land from a state that was depleted due to conventional agriculture into an organic farm thriving with organisms and diverse produce, and also inspired his village to do the same (Omolo and Wheat, 2013). Diversity is important because through it, households can have increased resilience from common food price shocks and unavailability of food. Regardless of the space one has, permaculture can be done effectively. From those with small balconies to those with bigger parcels of land, growing a variety of food is possible.
What can you do?
It takes collective effort in order to achieve significant progress towards restoration and conservation of biodiversity. It requires international collaboration, national effort, and individual attempts, and all levels are important. At an individual level there are a few things that collectively will create good progress. We should replace our unsustainable way of living and turn it into regenerative living.
- Creating nature and natural habitats around us to introduce diversity.
- Change harmful farming methods to organic ones which will support diversity including pollinators, soil life, birds and many other species.
- Grow and eat a higher diversity of vegetables and fruits and reduce meat consumption
- Replace firewood and charcoal for cooking, and kerosene for lighting with alternatives such as solar lamps, energy-efficient cookers to maintain the forest
- Reducing food wastage and food loss
All in all, we all have apart to play and the little steps we take are important since they will eventually be felt on a wider scale.
FAO. (2018). Once neglected, these traditional crops are our new rising stars | FAO Stories | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1154584/
Ipbes. (2019). Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services | IPBES. Retrieved from https://ipbes.net/global-assessment
Omolo, C., & Wheat, S. (2013). Permaculture in Kosodo Village – Resilience. Retrieved from https://www.resilience.org/stories/2013-09-24/permaculture-in-kosodo-village/?fbclid=IwAR2jH17XSiFFYR3BC3I3yvjfNnQ88MkHKnKBz3PyG69zHN4J5tKOQNcQFoM