Balancing Bees and Livestock: Pastoralist Knowledge, Perceptions and Implications for Pollinator Conservation in Rangelands, Northern Tanzania
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Insect pollinators provide numerous ecosystem services that support other living organisms. While pollinators play a large role in cropping systems, little is known about their presence and function in rangeland ecosystems, which have recently become fragmented and overexploited at an extraordinary rate. We assessed local Maasai knowledge on insect pollinators and how pollinators affect livelihood diversification in Simanjiro rangelands, Tanzania. Through questionnaires, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and field observations, we found varied insect knowledge among Maasai herders. Lasioglossum of sub genus Ipomalictus and Syriphidae were the least commonly recognized pollinators as only 24%, and 7% of participants could identify them, respectively. Responses varied significantly between men and women (F ¼ 7.397, p ¼.007). Commiphora africana, Acacia mellifera and Albizia anthelmintica were noted as most important bee forage plants while observations showed Aspilia mossambicensis, Justicia debile and Acacia tortilis. Most (77%) of Maasai herders showed limited ability to link pollinators and rangeland wellbeing. Beekeeping contributed to livelihood diversification for 61% of respondents, with women participating more frequently than men (v2 ¼ 46.962, p ¼.0001). Beekeeping was positively influenced by education level (R ¼ .421, p <.0001) and occupation (R ¼ .194, p ¼.009). Pollinator declines were attributed to climate change (47%), agriculture (37%), and habitat destruction (8%). We conclude that Maasai have limited knowledge of common pollinator groups and their roles. Community outreach and training should bridge the knowledge gap in pastoralist communities to fully realize pollinator benefits and highlight the importance of rangeland health.