Middle East
27 Jul 2015

Guidelines for bird-sensitive agriculture released

Pesticide Spraying
IRRI Photo (Chris Quintana) - Pesticide spraying
By Julien.Jreissati

In an effort to address threats caused by unsustainable agriculture practices and to help the agriculture sector with bird conservation, the BirdLife-led MSB project has developed a set of guidelines for bird-sensitive agriculture development.  

Agriculture is an important sector in most regional economies, significantly contributing to gross domestic product (GDP) and employment. It is also a main source of income  for the majority of rural populations. Many countries in the region are looking to expand their agricultural sector as a way to increase food security and reduce poverty for their rapidly expanding populations. In nearly all countries of the Rift Valley/Red Sea flyway, land under agricultural use and the area under irrigation are both on the increase. However, if not practiced sustainably, such growth will occur at the expense of public health and nature protection. The ecological services provided by soaring birds as part of sustainable agriculture practices are being jeopardised by unregulated agricultural intensification and expansion.

The effect of agriculture sector on the birds can be broadly grouped into two main sets, those:

a)     that come from agro-chemicals – posing poisoning risk; and,

b)    from non-agrochemical aspects (intensification and expansion)-causing habitat degradation and destruction

The risks posed by the sector have received a worldwide attention, hence, compelling the international community to take steps that could support stakeholders to take actions that enhance birds’ conservation. For example, the issue of poisoning risks was highlighted at the 11th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Migratory Species (Quito, Ecuador, November 2014), and a conference resolution was adopted on Preventing Poisoning of Migratory Birds (Resolution 11.31). Moreover, the Aichi target 5 and 7 under the Convention on Biodiversity call for reduction of habitat loss and habitat degradation and for sustainable management of agriculture, respectively.

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The MSB project Guidance materials could form part of useful tools applied by stakeholders in the agriculture sector in achieving a win-win situation, where, agricultural productivity improves but in a manner that ensures environmental sustainability.

The guidance material is presented as a set of two guidelines, one addressing the poisoning risks associated to agro-chemicals while the other tackles the impacts from agriculture expansion and intensification on migratory soaring birds. These guidelines are freely available for download along with a combining summary here (English / Arabic).

The Migratory Soaring Birds (MSB) project is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Its main aim is to integrate the conservation of migratory soaring birds within threatening sectors along the Rift Valley / Red Sea flyway.