Addressing agricultural labour issues is key to biodiversity-smart farming
There is an urgent need for agricultural development strategies that reconcile agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. This is especially true in the Global South where population growth is rapid and much of the world’s remaining biodiversity is located. Combining conceptual thoughts with empirical insights from case studies in Indonesia and Ethiopia, we argue that such strategies will have to pay more attention to agricultural labour dynamics. Farmers have a strong motivation to reduce the heavy toil associated with farming by adopting technologies that save labour but can negatively affect biodiversity. Labour constraints can also prevent farmers from adopting technologies that improve biodiversity but increase labour intensity. Without explicitly accounting for labour issues, conservation efforts can hardly be successful. We hence highlight the need for biodiversity-smart agriculture, that is farming practices or systems that reconcile biodiversity with land and labour productivity. Our empirical insights suggest that technological and institutional options to reconcile farmers’ socio-economic goals and biodiversity conservation exist but that more needs to be done to implement such options at scale.