nmaist farm

Evaluating the benefits of floral patches for supporting beneficial insects in legume crops, Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology, Arusha, Tanzania.

Pest damage of legumes is one of the major challenges to food and nutritional security in Africa and disproportionately affects poor farmers growing low-input orphan crop grain legumes such as beans, pigeon pea, cowpea and lablab. Pest control is typically dependent on high agrochemical inputs which may have negative impacts on users and consumers and severely impact non-target invertebrates that can otherwise be beneficial to food production through pollination or natural pest regulation. Agricultural systems are ecologically complex and must function with natural habitats rather than deplete them. More resilient agriculture and focussed investments for smallholder farmers can deliver transformative change and enhance prospects and livelihoods of the world's poorest while safeguarding against risks.

In Tanzania, Kenya and Malawi, legumes are grown and consumed by millions of farmers and their families providing protein, micronutrients and vitamins so represent one of the most important means to enhance nutritional security. Food poverty exceeds 18% in these countries and agriculture is central to reducing this livelihood gap. Yields of key legumes such as beans and cowpea are presently very low (500-700 kg/ha) but potential yields are >3000 kg/ha. Consequently, there is great potential for millions of farmers, particularly women (the primary growers of orphan legume crops in Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania), to increase nutritional and food insecurity by improving production of legumes.

hoverfly naprocla

The larvae of hoverflies are key predators of aphids, which are important bean pests

Biodiversity underpins agricultural ecosystem services and food security, livelihoods and economic development by provisioning natural enemies of crop pests. Natural enemies reduce populations of pest insects thereby reducing reliance on synthetic insecticide application. Natural Pest Regulation has been estimated to be worth US$906 billion. Non-crop habitats in field margins provide the environment required to support natural enemies of pests including hoverflies. Management or manipulation of this non-crop habitat can help to support natural pest regulation and can even be augmented and sustained in better managed natural or manipulated agro-ecosystems. The occurrence, density and impacts of most beneficial insects in smallholder ecosystems, however, are poorly understood, particularly in Africa.

This new project "NaPROCLA" (Natural Pest Regulation on Orphan Crop Legumes in Africa) will take forward recent findings by our partnership and identify the key taxa that support and deliver natural pest regulation. We will develop approaches that support and augment natural pest regulation through improved agroecosystems management with reduced pesticide use. The research will provide evidence for benefits of natural pest regulation and establish how this can be optimised through better landscape management or manipulation and how natural pest regulation can function alongside other management practises including natural pest resistance, botanical insecticides and intercropping.

Read the profile on the UKRI website.






Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich

Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, Tanzania

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Malawi

Egerton University, Kenya

National Institute of Science and Tecnology in Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Studies in Ecology and Evolution (IN‐TREE)

Pollination service in agroecosystems (POLINFRUT NETWORK)

INCT IN TREE        logopolinfrut

IN-TREE is a National Institute of Science and Technology supported by National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) that aims to produce and investigate inter and transdisciplinary production of knowledge in ecology and evolution based on the interaction between researchers and students from Brazil and abroad and sectors of Brazilian society, such as environmental agencies, farmers and schools. With this, it will act at the frontier of knowledge, impacting in a relevant way these scientific fields and contributing to the solution of national problems in areas considered strategic in the public policies of environment, S & T & I, education and university extension and outreach. IN-TREE includes more than 250 researchers and environmental technicians from 49 laboratories in 11 Brazilian institutions, mainly in the Northeast, linked to 26 postgraduate programs and 45 foreign researchers from 14 countries. The network of laboratories associated with IN-TREE will develop 13 thematic projects (PT), addressing research questions at the border of knowledge in ecology and/or evolution from a diversity of approaches, including:

  1. empirical procedures (laboratory and field work), theoretical (conceptual, mathematical, computational, statistical, evolutionary) and modeling, with focus on substances, molecules, genes, physiology, communities, ecosystems, ecosystem properties, ecosystem services, socio-ecological systems, and impacts;
  2. methods related to the areas of epistemology, ethics, education, sociology, anthropology, communication and economy; 
  3. participatory methodologies related to interaction with society.

In addition, five integrating projects will be developed, transversal to thematic projects, which will stimulate PT teams to adopt inter and transdisciplinary perspectives in the fields of modelling, epistemology/ethics, interaction with society, communication and innovation. A series of strategies, including the Steering Committee, the use of information and communication technologies, seminars, the establishment of interdisciplinary orientation are being adopt by IN-TREE  to integrate the project team.

POLINFRUT network, coordinated by Dr Blandina Viana (UFBA), is one of the thematic project (PT) of IN-TREE whose main goal is understanding how changes in the supply of pollination services affect the functioning and stability of agroecosystems and what are their socioeconomic and environmental implications. POLINFRUT network is also interested in investigating the efficiency of agroecological practices in the maintenance of pollinator communities and pollination services in agricultural crops. POLINFRUT also seek, through collaborative and transdisciplinary research, to assist decision making on the solution of problems, contributing to the implementation of public policies for social development, and promoting changes in attitudes that contribute to reducing the loss of pollinator diversity and pollination services.


Fruit farming in the Brazilian caatinga. Picture by Patricia Rebouças.

An international consortium of researchers, led by the University of East Anglia in the UK, has been funded to work on enhancing the sustainability of fruit production in the highly biodiverse semi-arid caatinga, in Brazil. The three-year project is called Sustainable Fruit farming In the CAatinga: managing ecosystem service trade-offs as agriculture intensifies (SUFICA). It brings together agro-ecology researchers from the UK, Brazil and Chile.

The goal of SUFICA is to enhance the competitiveness, sustainability and long-term resilience of fruit farming in the São Francisco Valley in Brazil as it intensifies, through cutting edge research on agricultural ecosystem services and biodiversity. The project will co-design and test nature-based innovations on intensive fruit farms, which generate multiple environmental benefits whilst enhancing profitability of farm through improved yield or quality and reduced inputs.

SUFICA involves the entire supply chain, from farmers in Brazil, through international fruit supply companies, to a UK supermarket (Waitrose) and a global partnership of agri-food companies developing a biodiversity metric for supply chains (Cool Farm Alliance). The collaboration is a response to strong market signals in the agri-food sector that farmers should take action to support biodiversity. The research links this biodiversity objective with production-enhancing ecosystem services – pollination, carbon storage and water flow regulation - to assess the potential for management that benefits both biodiversity and production. The approach, termed 'ecological intensification', has shown promise in Europe and North America, but has not been experimentally tested in tropical semi-arid environments.

The project is scientifically ground-breaking. It tests ecological intensification using a replicated Before-After-Control-Impact experimental design, codeveloped with the farming community in a specific landscape, to generate long-lasting impact.

SUFICA establishes the necessary research infrastructure and tools to monitor and continually improve biodiversity and ecosystem services on farms in the São Francisco valley, and demonstrates how a partnership approach enables the benefits of agricultural growth and environmental protection to be combined.



  • University of East Anglia, UK
  • Pontifical Catholic University of Chile
  • Federal University of São Francisco Valley (UNIVASF), Brazil
  • Bahía State University (UNEB), Brazil
  • Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil
  • Embrapa Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, Brazil
  • Primafruit Ltd, UK
  • Cool Farm Alliance, UK
  • Agropecuaria Labrunier Ltda, Brazil


Project profile on the UK Darwin Initiative website

Project information on the Kew-NRI projects listing

This project surveyed plant and invertebrate biodiversity in bean ecosystems in Tanzania and Malawi to evaluate their ecologies. The project identified field margin plant species that (i) attract, nourish and provide habitat for natural enemies of pests; (ii) promote the activity of pollinator insects in crops and (iii) provide environmentally-benign ‘botanical insecticides’ as additional control for pests. This required a systematic analysis of roles and interactions of pest and biological control species/habitats, supporting development of management systems that increase productivity through strategic integration of biodiversity. Using this knowledge we are developing interventions that maintain and optimise these ecosystem services.



  • Darwin Initiative, UK
  • Closely interconnected project supported by McKnight Foundation (USA-Africa)



  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK
  • Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, UK
  • Nelson Mandela African Institute of Science and Technology, Tanzania
  • Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), Malawi