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Cross-Pollinating Agriculture, Ecosystems and Food: Human/Bee Relationships in Anolaima, Colombia

  • Author(s): Cely Santos, Marcela
  • Advisor(s): Philpott, Stacy M.
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

Behind every cup of coffee, chocolate bar and fruit salad there are hundreds of insects and smallholders in the tropics linking forests, agricultural fields and food. Insects, especially bees, mediate the production of about 75% of crop plants consumed worldwide, and smallholders in the tropics produce about 40% of the world’s food. Both bees and traditional small-scale production systems are threatened because of the expansion of industrial agriculture. In this dissertation I aim to understand how agrarian change – the transformation from traditional to industrial agriculture– has influenced the relationships between humans and bees through effects on Anolaiman livelihoods and landscapes. In doing so, I re-construct the environmental history of the region and describe socio-economic, cultural and ecological drivers and trajectories of socio-ecological change shaping the current state of Anolaima. To evaluate the interdependence between humans and bees, I evaluate the contribution of animal pollinators to rural livelihood security. I find that local socio-economic asymmetries associated with agrarian change influenced food access in Anolaima in such a way that pollination deficits could disproportionately affect poor households, while nutrient-rich, animal-pollinated crops become luxury foods. To understand the effects of environmental change on bees, I assess the influence of agricultural management and habitat factors at the local and landscape scales on bee diversity, and find that bee communities are undergoing a process of biotic homogenization associated with environmental change. This empirical and interdisciplinary study represents a holistic understanding of bee declines and its emergence from multiple layers of socio-cultural, economic, political and environmental dynamics associated with agrarian change, an urgent issue with important implications for food security throughout the world.

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