CONSERVATION

Sustainable Butterfly Farming

Conservation & Sustainable Butterfly Farming

  Nick visited Kenya in 2011, which gave him the inspiration for his work titled MUWAKI. This enabled him to travel to several areas of good butterfly diversity, and connect with sustainable farmers and institutes of butterfly research to understand how insect breeding can encourage conservation amongst local communities. Muwaki (2012) by Nick Jeffrey Kenya has 900 different species of butterfly of which 500 types live in the Kakamega Forest. About 250 to 350 species live in the Arabuko Sokoke Forest, where the Kipepeo Project has been set up in Gede.

The Kipepeo Project is a community led program that works with local people helping them to identify local butterflies and then to breed them. This work is vital for the conservation of the forest as the local people are able to generate an income from it, without destroying the rainforest, which in turn engenders a positive attitude towards its preservation. A clever and sustainable cycle has been created out of the simple process of farming butterfly pupae to help with conservation. Nick Jeffrey has also more recently visited Colombia carrying out a similar geographical and botanical research trip to discover ethical, and sustainable butterfly farming communities and similar, brand new initiatives. La Eterna Primavera, an exhibition of natural art forms celebrating the new image of Colombia and the sustainable butterfly farming community of El Arenillo, presents a very special body of work (of which Alas de Colombia I & II is in the collection), not least because they pay homage to one of the rare sources of Nick’s work and his journey to discover it, but because they draw attention to the forward looking, positive work the founders, Maria and Vanessa Restrepo (founders of Alas de Colombia; a leading and sustainable butterfly farming initiative in La Palmira, Valle de Cauca) are doing to help protect our environment. Nestled in the heart of the Colombian rainforest lies a unique initiative dedicated to the preservation and safekeeping of local butterfly species. The initiative, Alas de Colombia, was set up in 2001 as a sustainable alternative to arable farming; a way of working to responsibly trade in insects, but also as a means of providing incomes and education to the local community. The community of El Arenillo, Palmira directly benefits from the Alas de Colombia mission as the company works with local families as well as with the local indigenous peoples to curb the smuggling of insects and educating the community about the importance of licensed, diligent, and sustainable farming practices to ensure the survival of essential breeding plants, of greater numbers of butterfly species, and the overall natural habitat and bio-diversity. In 2009 Nick also ventured out to Bolivia to initiate the export and import of sustainably farmed butterfly species from La Paz and Santa Cruz. Visiting sustainable butterfly farms outside La Paz and Santa Cruz Nick has explored the sustainable farming industry first hand. Nick harnessed support and funding through the Fundacion Trabajo Empressa, Santa Cruz, and was asked to lecture at the Santa Cruz University (USPA). It is through such first-hand experiences that he remains resolute in his commitment to encourage more efficient collaboration between local communities and their government. A second trip is planned to research a new larger scale sustainability venture in Colombia working with farmers outside Bogota and Cali. All butterflies imported from the farms are in line with CITES (Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species) and it’s rigid framework. The butterflies are imported with the help and guidance of the Canadian Wildlife Service, Animal Health UK, DEFRA (Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and other World Wildlife Agencies, and no rare or endangered species are ever used in these works.

Entomologists have long affirmed that it is not the collecting of insects out of the wild that adversely affects their population, but the destruction of their habitat and host plants which can lead to irreversible change and the extinction of many different species. Leading environmentalists and entomologists maintain that insect collecting can actually aid the preservation of insect species by offering an economic incentive to preserve the habitat in which this sustainable rainforest crop thrives.

Species Protection

The protection and conservation of the environment is a fundamental principle within all of Nick Jeffrey’s work. The butterflies exhibited have been sustainably reared by farmers from several places in the world. A single female butterfly can lay between 250 to 1000 eggs in her lifetime, so only very few female butterflies are caught to start captive populations. And after a captive population is established, there is only occasional need to return to the wild to catch males; to ensure that the captive populations have strong genetic diversity. The reproductive capacity of butterflies ensures that the limited extraction of wild butterflies by farmers, will have no affect on the health of wild populations. The following generation will quickly fill any gaps left in  previous ones. The primary cause of butterfly extinction is habitat destruction, and by providing an economic incentive to conserve butterfly habitats, butterfly farming is preventing habitat loss, and that of other animal species also endemic to these natural habitats. The wild butterfly has a 2% chance of survival, and because many butterflies are in danger from predators, parasites, viruses or destroyed habitats, farming is also helping to repopulate the environment with healthy butterflies, whilst maintaining their natural environments.

I would like to develop people’s awareness of the fragility of our greatest natural resource and establish more effective, economic means by which we can implement sustainable farming techniques that protect the natural environment and the livelihoods of local communities.