Every year, on 22 May, we celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. This date was proclaimed by the United Nations in December 2000. This year’s theme is “building a shared future for all life”, which aligns with the ongoing United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, highlighting that biodiversity is the answer to several sustainable development challenges. Biodiversity is the living fabric of our planet, the foundation upon which we can build back better.
This year, FSNet-Africa celebrated IDB by hosting a live podcast as part of the #InConversationWithFSNetAfrica series on Twitter Spaces. FSNet-Africa fellow and biodiversity researcher Dr Tiwonge Mzumara-Gawa from the Malawi University of Science and Technology shared her thoughts on this critical issue.
Tiwonge said that being out in nature, and engaging with things that are in the environment and in the wild, was what drew her to studying biodiversity. She holds a PhD in Ecological Sciences and is inspired by ecology, wild spaces and how things connect and work together naturally. Below are some of the interview questions and responses.
What role does biodiversity play in food systems?
The food system is based on growing food, and maintaining our soils and soil biodiversity is essential to the food system. There are different organisms that work to make the soil what it is. If we look at the issue of pests, there are natural predators, such as bats, birds and insects, that prey on the pests that destroy crops. For example, owls and bats prey on insects or rat populations that spoil our crops.
Why commemorate International Day for Biological Diversity?
It is a day that focuses on biodiversity. No one can dispute the importance of biodiversity. The food we eat and everything we are is about biodiversity. Conserving biodiversity is about all of us. The theme this year is about building for all life – because our focus is mostly on human life and we forget that human life does not stand alone.
What are the main, topical biological diversity issues for researchers?
Pollinators (e.g. insects, bird and bats) ensure that certain crops grow. This is an area that is important but has been ignored for so long. Even farmers often do not understand that there are insects working to pollinate their crops. These pollinators are also negatively impacted by pest management. There are a lot of chemicals meant for pest management; and we understand what happens to the pests but not what happens to the pollinators. There is a need to explore integrated pest management methods, where we allow pollinators to flourish in certain agricultural systems.
What is your call to action?
Everyone has a role to play in biodiversity. You can do so much from home. For example, plant more trees, separate your waste, use fewer plastic products and more biodegradable products, and even have a water bath for birds. If everyone did that little something, we would go a lot further. It has to start with each individual.
The full recording of the session is available at: https://bit.ly/3yQBCco.