Today, people and organisations all over the world celebrate World Wetlands Day. The theme this year is “Wetlands & Agriculture: Partners for Growth”. This day was created by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands to raise public awareness of wetland values and benefits.
Wetlands International offices around the world are joining the celebration and showcasing the value of wetlands for agriculture and food production. Wetlands play a critical role in the survival of many communities across the world, where they are a source of water for domestic use and for the production of crops. At the same time, the drive to increase food security is often happening at the expense of wetland ecosystem services.
We zoom into a number of challenges and solutions around the world related to agriculture on which Wetlands International is working today.
Bourgou, Inner Niger Delta
In Mali, one of the important agricultural products is bourgou grass. Bourgou areas provide essential nursery habitat for juvenile fish, and bourgou can be used as feed for cattle. The large annual variation in flooding of the Inner Niger Delta has a direct impact on Mali's natural resources. The lower the flood, the lower the production of fish, rice and bourgou grass.
While the area itself now has a certain level of protection, upstream diversion and dams for irrigation and hydropower generation pose a major threat; less and less water reaches the shrinking delta.
We work with local communities to protect the floating fields of bourgou and aim for the improvement of water distribution and livelihoods of the Delta’s communities, helping them to adapt to climate change.
Soy production and wetlands
Soy is one of the most important agricultural commodities in the world, used for animal feed fulfilling the meat demands in the world (70%), for biodiesel and for various food products. The expansion of soybean cultivation in South American countries like Argentina is however driving the loss and degradation of natural ecosystems, including wetlands, and leads to water pollution with consequences for biodiversity and human health.
Wetlands International works with the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS) to address wetland and water issues in the RTRS standard. Another major effort is to establish a solid knowledge-base on impacts of soybean cultivation expansion on wetland ecosystems, water and local livelihoods for decision makers in the region and the rest of the world.
To read more about soy bean cultivation and wetlands, download the report “Impacts of soybean production on wetlands and water” or read more about our soy and wetlands programme in Spanish.
Towards sustainable palm oil
In Indonesia, palm oil is one of the most important agricultural crops. The growing demand for palm oil has driven the expansion of plantations into peatlands, resulting in enormous CO2 emissions, increased fire risk, soil subsidence and biodiversity loss.
We work to improve the sustainability of palm oil, for instance through the Roundtable of Sustainable palm oil which recently adopted Principles and Criteria in relation to peatlands including the requirement to avoid peatlands in new plantation developments. See our guidance manual for palm oil growers.
As an alternative, we advocate paludiculture, a form of wet agriculture that does not require peatland drainage and that offers a truly sustainable source of income to local communities. See our recent photoblog on paludiculture to get inspired.
Have a great celebration of World Wetlands Day!