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Oumayma Ihsane

PhD Student - Doctorante

Prof. Nicolas J. Vereecken's research group at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium.

Tel: +32 (0)485 568 816

E-mail : oumayma.ihsane@ulb.be

Profile & curriculum

MSc in crop protection and pest management – Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire Hassan II (2010-2016)

Internship at an entomology lab – ICARDA (2017-2018) & PhD candidate UMons (2018-2021)

PhD student ULB (2021-present)

Research interests

  • Understanding how different agricultural practices and ecological functions influence pollinators diversity and hence crop yield in Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Study plant/pollinator interactions, effect of pollen limitation and pollinator visitation on reproductive success

  • Quantify the impact of insect pollination services and identify the crop pollinators that are the most important service providers to help conserve them properly in agroecosystems.  

Research project

This project is framed in the context of BRAIN-be (Belgian Research Action through Interdisciplinary Networks) research program, in collaboration with different Belgian institutes and Universities (Royal Museum for Central Africa (RMCA), Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences (RBINS), ULB, UAntwerpen) and a local African partner, the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA, Morogoro, Tanzania).

The general aim of my research is to provide a reference test-case with a first quantitative description of the relationships between agroecological farming, biodiversity of wild bees as crop pollinators and cucurbit crop production in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, a socioeconomic analysis produced on cost-benefits, sustainability and productivity of small-scale cucurbit farming will also be of interest for the development of a more sustainable agriculture in Africa. Applying this on the African mainland has not been done before.

Growing evidence shows that there is a particularly high demand for animal pollination in the tropics. However, more than half of all the studies of pollinators and pollination service provided by insects, including wild bees and honeybees (Apis mellifera),comes from North America (36%) and Europe (27%), whereas tropical Africa (4%) is still highly under-represented in the scientific literature. This highlights an unfortunate gap and lack of data on pollination services from regions where small-scale farming systems are of crucial importance for the economy of rural communities. Moreover, it is still ambiguous to which extent agroecological practices alter biodiversity, that is, and how biodiversity affects agroecosystem services such as crop production. 

In my research outlook, we first propose to develop and implement a standardized bee pollinator monitoring program to share data on bee species, abundance, and their interactions with cucurbits via dedicated databases. Along with that, we will identify the main factors driving effective pollination of crops under the prevailing conditions of African agricultural landscapes through literature surveys and existing databases. On top of that, we’ll explore the bee community structure associated to open field entomophilous crops (three cucurbits) conducted in agroecological and conventional farms in Morogoro region (East-Central Tanzania). We hypothesize that agroecological farms will host higher diversity and abundance of wild bees compared to conventional farms, due to a hypothesized increased biodiversity because of heterogeneous landscape including natural and semi- natural habitats. 

To better preserve the diversity of pollinators, we must first recognize their functions in the geographical context targeted by the study. For that, it is therefore important to also assess the contemporary pollination deficits to determine how widespread are pollination deficits in cucurbits and to what extent crop yields are limited by pollen availability in agroecological farming Vs conventional.


 For the socioeconomic analysis, we will use the Q-Methodology to better understand the convergence and divergence of viewpoints on the general issue of agroecological transition.