Bees Keep Trees
With the UNs 2011 focus being International Year of Forests, to encourage global forest conservation and sustainable consumption for green growth, we share another successful initiative from Zimbabwe.
It is recognized worldwide that forest goods and services remain critical to the poor and marginalized. They can contribute to rural poverty reduction. So sustainable use of forests to uplift livelihoods should top the list of government policies and the programmes of environmental and development organizations.
Beekeeping has a long tradition in Africa dating back over 5000 years, when beehives were first used for producing honey in ancient Egypt. Beekeeping promotes economic self reliance and for some of the poorest people has become a life-sustaining source of income. It is an ecologically and technically appropriate form of income generation for communities in some of the poorest areas of Zimbabwe.
Recognising the value of protecting and conserving forests through beekeeping Environment Africa initiated and implemented a number of beekeeping projects in various districts. One of the communities successfully involved in the programme is in Wedza.
They are fortunate to have the beautiful Miombo Woodlands within their local environment and through the beekeeping programme have not only managed to uplift their own livelihoods to an economically sustainable level, but they are also now protecting and conserving their local environment.
With encouragement and help from Environment Africa, the Wedza community formed EAGs (Environmental Action Groups). These EAGs enabled individual farmers to join together and develop from subsistence beekeeping to commercial markets. Previously, individual farmers were producing honey which they were selling in unmarked bottles.
The honey from the Chigondo EAG was sent for testing to the Standards Association of Zimbabwe and was given full compliance with SAZ349:2004 and the Food Safety Standards Act 2001, assuring consumers that Chigondo honey can be consumed safely.
Environment Africa has also supported the farmers to build a honey and agro-processing centre that processes locally produced honey, peanut butter and sunflower cooking oil, among other products, and helps to market them.
The construction of the centre has enabled even non-members to sell their products – thus providing an accessible market for the local communities. The ultimate goal is that the project is a long-term, sustainable, community-owned business.
By utilizing a holistic educational approach, EA ensures that when participants have completed the training, they have acquired the knowledge and skills to understand the importance and benefits of beekeeping. These include:
how to select suitable sites for mounting bee hives, how to construct modern hives from local materials readily accessible
identify and control pests and diseases, manage bees and harvest honey sustainably market honey and by-products for income generation and more importantly conserve forests as the practice of beekeeping is a natural way to discourage local communities from cutting down of trees and burning.
One beehive produces an average of 15kg of honey, approximately 12kg once processed. Decanted into bottles of 500g this equates to 24 bottles, sold at a market price of $4 a bottle realizing an income of $96 from this one beehive. The input costs are relatively low being less than 50% of the income generated, making beekeeping a thriving business that can contribute invaluably to a household income.
With adequate input and training, local small-scale honey production in Zimbabwe could satisfy the local market demands and long-term growth and sustainability could lead to export potential.
Honey bee populations have declined dramatically world wide in the past 10 years due to a number of factors including climate change, human intervention and this has contributed to a global shortage of honey. Zimbabwe is well placed to not only produce its own honey but to explore the export potential of honey. Apiculture is a positive programme that not only contributes to uplifting the livelihoods of rural communities but protects the trees and ultimately contributes to protecting our planet earth.Post published in: Environment