Apiculture for socio-economic expansion

Bolstering Ethiopia’s economy is pivotal in resolving its multifarious socio-economic problems via expanding all the potential sources of revenue at large. Of the many sectors the country can garner revenue or income at a smaller scale, the potential of apiculture industry in social and economic development it really immense.

Cognizant of the fact that apiculture does contribute a lot to the development of the agriculture sector, The Ethiopian Herald conducted an interview with Miftah Birru, who graduated in Agricultural Economic and working as an agriculture expert, to have viable information about the apiculture sub sector.

He said, “Hive products such as bee-wax, pollen, royal jelly, among others are known to have contributed largely to the economic development of developing countries like ours. Honey from Ethiopia will command higher demand and prices in various parts of the African continent as its medicinal and antimicrobial qualities, thereby serving as a good foreign exchange commodity in international market. As part of its contribution to economic growth, apiculture is a good source of income for beekeepers; it involves the use of little land. It empowers small scale farmers and also does not damage the environment.”

He further elucidated that not only is apiculture important for generating income, it also curbs the state of rural migration as the community does have alternatives to produce more. Apiculture protects the environment and also an important non-timber forest product.Doing honey business to make money has now been a culture, indeed!

Revenue from honey harvesting and small-scale farming is meager, and communities suffer from chronic poverty, poor housing and an inability to pay school fees. However, at present these people do have access to rich natural resources, especially honey bees and forest resources, he said.

“Ethiopia is renowned within Africa for its beekeeping potential as well as its highly diverse honeybee flora and number of bee colonies (the highest on the continent). These characteristics contribute to the country being one of the largest honey producers, granting it first place in Africa and tenth worldwide,” he added.

He further said that beekeeping is a sustainable form of agriculture, which is beneficial to the environment and provides economic reasons for the conservation of native habitats and potentially increased yield of food and forage crops.

As to Miftah, there are already well-established trade routes for honey, people are familiar with bees, and the area is suitable for beekeeping. The honey hunters have expressed a huge interest in beekeeping however they lack knowledge, experience and the means to begin, as there is no culture of using bee hives in this area. As human populations grow, communities move into habitats, clearing land previously home to wildlife to make room for human settlement and agriculture.

He said, “Beekeeping is a well-established practice in the farming communities of the Amhara region and it plays a significant role as source of additional cash incomes and nutrition for many thousand subsistence farmers. However, in spite of its significant economic contribution and its great potential for sustainable development for the region, the attention given to the sector until recently was not satisfactory. The sub sector has been left for nature with little attempts to support it with technological packages to improve its production and productivity. Thus, the farmer beekeepers in particular and the region in general are not benefiting from the sector as the high level of the economic potential of the apicultural resources would allow.”

Beekeeping could probably be a profitable activity to undertake in most parts of the country like Amhara and Oromia states. The ownership pattern of honeybee colonies is widespread and nowadays the previously neglected ‘micro-animals’ are gradually gaining a respectable place in research and development programs. Thus, developing appropriate policy and beekeeping development strategy that would be applicable to the different production systems and agro-ecological zones of the regions and give a clear sense of direction is vital to improve the utilization of the region’s apiculture resources with a promising economic future, he opined.

The major problems of honeybee production in the country can be tackled with the appropriate research and development.Inadequate feed sources (nectar, pollen, and water) due to drought and deforestation is a major limiting factor to honeybee production in Amhara region, particularly during the long dry season.

Most of the honey plants flower and provide ample nectar and pollen sources after the main rainy season comprising September, October, November and December. “Integration of beekeeping to others development activities such as conservation of natural resources and promote the sowing of multipurpose legumes as a soil conservation measures as well as a fertilizer saver and that retain moisture to the soil may help as best means to green the futures. They also provide nectar and pollen for honeybees. Some browses can also occupy an important role in honeybees feeding, particularly during the dry season. This is because most browse species are drought resistant,” he said.

Techniques of beekeeping management like moving bees out of hazardous areas, supplementary feeding and various protective measures that will reduce the harmful effect of exposure to insecticides should be developed and practiced.

Locally beekeepers would be train and then serve as extension agents in their own village. Moreover, modern beekeeping requires close attention and giving technical assistance to the farmers who had little knowledge in operation techniques. In all of the working areas developing honeybee calendar, continuous supervision and some assistance in hive management would help farmers learn more and improve their working capacity better.

According to Miftah, most of the beekeepers in the region have been using local beekeeping technique that result in low hive products. Much of the honey produced by the beekeeper is of very low quality because it is mixed with wax, pollen and brood. Some of the products are even unknown or unexploited. Management systems need to be improved in order to improve the quality and quantity of hive products. The beekeepers should use a year-round plan of management favorable to the bee colony. The choice of beekeeping technologies varies across geographical areas because of differences in biophysical and economic conditions of beekeepers.

He further elucidated that the indigenous honeybee colonies exist in large numbers in most parts of the region, and a small increment in productivity per colony will collectively lead to large volume of hive products. Moreover, at any kind of beekeeping development the use of the necessary tools and appropriate hives is essential for effective result. Effort should be done to evolve the most suitable hives to the beekeepers local condition so that they can understand and operate the hives without badly stung and destroying the colony. Knowledge on how to incorporate new technologies profitably into farm level production strategies will become more important.

He said, “Honeybee pests and diseases threaten most parts of the regions and cause high mortality rates and severe economic loss. The needs for effective honeybee health delivery service and appropriate control methods in order to reduce diseases, pests and predators constraint remain very important.”

Linking production and post-production components to efficient market information and extension services, infrastructure and marketing schemes, and establishing standards for quality control of bee products should be the major focus in hive products marketing. Farmer beekeepers should be encouraged to establish a honey and beeswax producer cooperatives, trained in proper management and processing of locally produced hive products, thus creating better potential to the local and international markets. Much of the honey produced from local hives is mixed with wax, pollen and brood and this procedure has not changed because there is a high demand for the supply for the making of local beer ‘(Tej)’.

In a nutshell, there is a strong need for an apiculture development policy with appropriate guides and well-defined goals in order to attain a thriving production sector with accelerating and environmentally sustainable growth. Technology packages have to be developed through farming systems research. A research system that benefits small-scale farmers operating in different farming systems and agro-climatic zones should be strengthened. Creating a system that develops a mechanism for strong links between research and extension services should also be an integral part of the envisaged development strategy and policy. A successful apiculture development strategy requires the formulation of natural resource management plans that complement the wider economic and specific agro-ecosystems objectives. The strategy will also need to consider the social, cultural, political and institutional elements that affect the management of natural resources.

Majority of the beekeepers lack the knowledge of appropriate methods of beekeeping. In the country there is no concerned college or university which can provide diploma or certificate level course in beekeeping. Ethiopia, as one of the sub-tropical countries, the land is not only favorable to bees, but also for different kinds of honeybee pest and predators that are interacting with the life of honeybees. The existence of pests and predators are nuisances to the honeybees and beekeepers. Pests and predators cause devastating damage on honeybee colonies with in short period of time and even overnight.



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