Legumes are among the most important food security crops cultivated by smallholder farmers and consumed for their proteins and other essential nutrients by millions of people, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Most legumes depend on insect pollination and natural pest regulation for sufficient yields. However, there is emerging evidence that yield gaps caused by lack of pollination and pest pressure may be common. We undertook a systematic review of the literature to evaluate pollinators and natural enemies’ contributions to legume crop yields and the factors driving the diversity and efficiency of these beneficial organisms in changing African landscapes. Our review identified the critical role played by pollinators and natural enemies in legume crop production in Africa and the important contributions of these organisms to food security. The review found agricultural intensification and population growth as the key drivers changing the landscapes used by beneficial organisms and threatening their future existence. We propose the use of ecological intensification in safeguarding the legume pollinators and pests’ natural enemies. The application of ecological intensification through practices such as effective habitat management or establishment of boundary features, fallows, etc., in legume cropping systems, can restore or maintain semi-natural and natural habitats suitable for beneficial insects. These habitats provide the much-needed connectivity required by beneficial organisms within legume agricultural landscapes to sustain viable and ecologically functioning populations.

Dr. Mark Otieno is a Research Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the University of Wuerzburg, Germany and a Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Resource Management at the University of Embu, Kenya. He previously undertook postdoctoral research on crop pollination under the Integrated Crop Pollination project at Pennsylvania State University, USA. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Reading, UK, writing his thesis on pigeon pea crop pollination and natural pest control. As the recipient of numerous awards, prizes, and mentions at high profile professional and global meetings, he has successfully led many agroecological programs – especially involving ecosystem services in legume crops.