Maincaland bee project to empower 2 000 farmers

Source: The Herald – Breaking news.

Maincaland bee project to empower 2 000 farmers

Tariro Stacey Gatsi

SEVENTY farmers from Mutasa South, Manicaland have received bee keeping training under a Forestry Commission initiative targeting to equip 2 000 individuals with skills for sustainable bee farming to capacitate them to generate additional incomes.

Also known as apiculture, bee-keeping is the art, business and science of rearing honey bees for production of honey and its valuable by-products while a bee hive is a habitation constructed for bees, usually either dome-shaped or box-shaped.

In a recent X (formerly twitter) post, Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Advocate Misheck Mugadza last week revealed that he had attended a bee hive making, bee keeping and honey making gala in Mutasa South Constituency.

“Over 70 participants got equipped with skills by trainers from the Forestry Commission. At least 2 000 people are expected to undergo the training and each trainee is expected to make at least ten hives to kick-start their projects,” said Adv Mugadza.

For Zimbabwe to become a significant player in the export of natural honey, there is need to improve infrastructure facilities with modern hives that have a longer shelf life than the traditional ones being used by some farmers, he observed.

Forestry Commission’s Information and Communications manager Ms Violet Makoto said their commitment to community empowerment and environmental sustainability had been demonstrated through the partnership with local stakeholders, including Allied Timbers, which provided bee hives. The collaboration has allowed the implementation of comprehensive bee keeping training programmes, equipping participants with the necessary skills to engage in bee hive making, she added.

Bee keeping is a non-consumptive use of the resource.

“As the Forestry Commission rolls out beekeeping projects in communities, particularly in rural areas, we recognise that bee keeping provides a good incentive towards forest conservation,” said Ms Makoto

Bee keeping has proved to be an ideal livelihood enhancement option, which has the positive effect of providing an income stream for communities in both urban and rural communities through sale of honey and its by-products like beeswax, propolis and royal jelly.

This consequently makes bee keeping a good project for communities to earn extra income over and above their other projects.

“There are mutual benefits to the farmers (as they derive income for livelihood enhancement through the sale of honey and other bee keeping products) and the forest conservation agenda as farmers intensify their efforts to protect the forest from which their bees forage,” said Ms Makoto.

She added that the apiculture training offered by the Forestry Commission placed emphasis on sustainable ways of bee keeping, which encompass the use of modern beehives like the Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) and Langstroth hives.

For Zimbabwe to become a significant player in the export of natural honey, there is need to replace traditional infrastructure facilities with modern hives that have a longer shelf life than those being used by some farmers.

Added Ms Makoto: “Instead of cutting down trees, we can add more to the existing forest resources to sustain forage for the bees. We know that bees are essential for the survival of our forests and they pollinate our trees, and help to maintain the biodiversity of our environment. Without bees, our forests would not be able to thrive. That’s why we are so excited about this project and not only will it help to protect our forests, but it will also provide a valuable source of income for rural communities. We believe that beekeeping is the perfect way to encourage forest conservation.”

Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development permanent secretary Professor Obert Jiri also added that negative human behaviour was the major culprit in habitat loss thus leading to the extinction of bees and other pollinators.

“We need to consider best and sound restorative and ecosystem-based agricultural practices that safeguard the role of a variety of pollinators, including the bees, which play a critical role in our food production systems,” added Prof Jiri.

Meanwhile, in another X (formerly twitter) post, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) urged people to protect bees and other pollinators from veld fires to boost productivity and ensure food and nutrition security.

“Most crops depend at least in part on pollination. Thirty-five percent of global food production depends at least in part on animal pollination. The world is made up of an invisible web and loss of these species weakens this web as well as whole ecosystems,” FAO said.