Banking on bees
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CTA. 1986. Banking on bees. Spore 6. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/44537
Thousands of small farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are keeping bees and making them work hard to improve their living standards. Bees thrive almost everywhere in the ACP countries, and are valuable both for their own products,...
Thousands of small farmers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries are keeping bees and making them work hard to improve their living standards. Bees thrive almost everywhere in the ACP countries, and are valuable both for their own products, such as honey and beeswax, and also for the way they pollinate flowers, which can help to ensure good yields of certain grain and fruit crops. In many ACP countries the produce of the bee has been ''harvested' for centuries. Ancient rock paintings depict honey collectors climbing trees trying to get at the honeycombs of wild bees. In some parts of the world, this practice continues but beekeeping has now come 'down to earth' bees have been transferred from tree to hive . There is considerable scope for future expansion. Beekeeping, or apiculture, has the potential to help tens of thousands of people in ACP countries to increase their incomes and their crop yields. It is not only farmers who can go in for apiculture. As very little space is needed beekeeping is ideal for people who have no land and little money the cost of setting up a beehive is modest and the art of beekeeping can be learnt by anyone. Wax and honey Africa is today the largest producer of beeswax in the world, and wax is much sought after in African markets where it fetches more money than honey. Wax is used in candlemaking, beauty products and for making shoe leather more supple and moisture-resistant. In the electronics industry, it is used to insulate components of electronics circuits and to etch copper and glass plates. In Kenya, for instance, farmers are encouraged to produce both wax and honey from their bees. Regarded nowadays as a 'natural health food', honey is much in demand in Western countries. Boosting crop fields In gathering nectar and pollen from flowers, bees pollinate fruit, seed, vegetable and fodder crops. Dr. Nicola Bradbear, Information Officer of the UK-based International Bee Research Association (IBRA), points out that the pollination side of beekeeping 'tends to be neglected. And yet the money that can be earned as a result of the pollination activity of bees is often greater than the income obtained from selling their honey and wax, even if it is an indirect source of income'. IBRA's scientific consultant, Dr. Eva Crane, and Professor Wilhelm Drescher, have stressed the pollination aspect of beekeeping and have pointed out the important way in which bees can compensate for the absence, due to chemical spraying, of other valuable pollinating insects. 'Through pollination,the food-gathering activities of bees improve both the quantity and quality of many cultivated crops. The intensification of agricultural production frequently includes a greatly increased use of fertilizers and pesticides. The latter often kill wild insects that serve as pollinators of cultivated crops. Programme has estimated that when farmers combine beekeeping with farming, crop yields increase by between 20 % and 50 %. In those African countries that are beset by food problems, any opportunity to obtain such an increase in output is highly encouraging, and this suggests that apiculture should be given greater prominence in agriculturai and rural development planning. Bees and development Eva Crane and Wilhelm Drescher have no doubt that there are many arguments in favour of expanding beekeeping in developing countries, especially because such expansion would help the poorest. Stressing the need for aid for apiculture, they say that 'at present, 11 % of the world's total land area is arable. With improved agricultural techniques this could be increased to 24 %. This allows little chance for the many landless peasants and smallholders to improve their position. In rural areas', they go on to say, 'any source of food or income that does not need land is potentially important. Beekeeping is such an undertaking because beehives occupy minimal space and can be placed on waste land.' Beekeeping does not compete with other types of agriculture for resources, say Crane and Drescher, but produces food from natural resources ''that are not otherwise exploited'. Bees collect nectar (sweet fluid produced by plants), that might otherwise be wasted, and make honey from it. They also point out that beekeeping, either to produce food for the family or to provide a cash crop, allows 'great flexibility in the amount of time it occupies'. According to the number of hives kept, it can be spare-time, part-time or even fulltime. Furthermore, beekeeping can be undertaken on a small budget; simple hives can be made from a variety of natural products. Argentina, China and Mexico are the countries where apiculture is most developed between them they provide the bulk of honey exports to the world market. But most developing countries have some kind of beekeeping programme, says IBRA's Dr. Bradbear. African countries have become interested in apiculture at differing times, so in prac tice it is at various stages of development in different countries. The contribution of bees to a local economy goes beyond agriculture. Beekeeping has shown that it can make a contribution to development. Enlightened government policies towards apiculture could allow that contribution to be substantially increased. And the people who stand to gain number among the world's poorest. Whilst the export of honey earns foreign exchange for some countries, Eva Crane cautions that such exports should only be the final step in beekeeping development. 'Exporting honey', she says, 'involves organisation by or for the beekeepers concerned. and the use of management methods which yield honey that meets the stringent requirements of importing countries.' Choosing suitable hives The types of hive that are used in developing countries vary with focal traditions and conditions. In many parts of Africa the hive is made from bark or from the trunk of a tree that has been hollowed out. These are popular with, and well suited to, rural beekeepers as they are relatively simple to make and use only natural materials. Bark hives are usually cylindrical in shape and are made from any of the common large woodland trees. Another common type of hive is the 'frame hive', which consists of a number of boxes, of similar size, open top and bottom and tiered one above another. Each box holds frames suspended on two runners, like files in a suspension filing cabinet, in which the bees build their combs. Hives must be watertight, reasonably draught-proof, stable, large enough to enable the swarm to develop into an efficient colony of bees and must be made of a material that does not easily become too hot or too cold. Because of the possibility of bees becoming angry if disturbed, it is preferable to house them well away from a house or pathway and to surround the hives with a hedge. A good location should be well-ventilated but not windy, and have access to early morning sun and afternoon shade for the hives. Beekeeping helps to create employment in associated activities. The hives that are needed can usually be produced on the spot, with local materials. Furthermore the prospect of a sustained income from beekeeping can encourage people to stay in the rural areas rather than drift to the towns. In Kenya, it was decided to adopt a modified traditional African beehive and, as a result, the Kenyan 'top bar hive'' has been introduced. The hives have movable bars onto which bees attach their honey combs. 'You can take the combs out of the hives to inspect them or to collect the honey without straining your neck or being obliged to climb trees', says bee expert Helen Nthiga of the Kibwezi women's group. Women take to apiculture Beekeeping is not, as in former times, only practised by men. Women are showing that they are also adept at beekeeping. Take, for example, the women who belong to a group at Kibwezi in the Machakos district of Kenya, about 50 kilometres east of the capital city Nairobi. They are today part of a beekeeping project with 2,255 members in 87 groups. Beekeeping helps them to improve their lot in a tough physical environment. 'These peasant women live on smallholdings averaging about two hectares in a region of semi-arid plateau where rainfall is irregular', says Armelle Braun in FAO's magazine 'Ceres'. These women are fortunate; artisanal beekeeping has been encouraged for a number of years by the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, with assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency. Kenya is undoubtedly one of the countries where beekeeping is most widespread, although there are many ACP countries which are launching beekeeping programmes to varying degrees. They often form an integral part of other development projects. In the Central African Republic, for example, schoolchildren are being trained and a market organised for wax; Gabon is setting up village hives; beekeeping features in Cameroon's policy to diversify development activities; and Togo has made beekeeping an activity for women. In Niger, it is taught to young peasant farmers, in Senegal it is combined with food crops, and in the Seychelles with the pollination of passion fruit. Haiti stresses new techniques in beekeeping, while Rwanda places considerable importance on the organisation of cooperatives to collect wax and honey. Each country benefits from bees in its own particular way and according to its own priorities. Beekeeping has thus taken off successfully once again, yet the potential for expansion is still enormous Aid for apiculture Beekeeping has attracted some support from international aid agencies but again there is scope for expansion. Drescher and Crane say that (in 1982) beekeeping projects had been supported by 70 aid agencies, ranging from large agencies to voluntary bodies. Aid donors who are looking for projects involving low-cost technology suitable for . developing countries find beekee ping an attractive proposition The Third International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates was held in Nairobi in November 1984. The conference passed 25 resolutions which form the basis for future action. It urged governments of developing countries to give 'high priority to opportunities for beekeeping projects in their rural communities' and suggested that more aid for such projects be sought from governments and multilateral aid organisations. Several aspects of beekeeping were identified as priority areas for support under aid programmes. These include migration, disease, aggressiveness, predators and mites, genetics and breeding of local species, and pollination. The conference recommended that bee research be based on indigenous honeybees and that a ban on the import of bees should be introduced. Whilst bees from USA and Europe have often been imported into tropical Africa, they have rarely survived. In view of the importance of pollination in improving crop yields, the conference urged that a beekeeping project should be integrated 'as an essential part of every agricultural and horticultural project which involves plant species requiring insect pollination'. In March 1988, Cairo (Egypt) will host the Fourth International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates. FURTHER INFORMATION ''Technical Cooperation Activities: Beekeeping A directory and guide', W Drescher and E Crane. published by the German Agency for Technical Cooperation. D-6236. Eschborn 1. West Germany The Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates are available from: International Bee Research Association (IBRA) 18 North Road Cardiff CF1 3DY. UK. Price: £17.50: 61 pp. These proceedings include reports on a wide range of issues associated with beekeeping in tropical and subtropical regions for example, when to harvest honey from traditional hives, the management of colonies of bees, bee forage and honey sources, pollination of fruit and nut crops and the characteristics of tropical African honeybees A large number of other publications relating to bees and beekeeping in the Tropics are available from IBRA. Free publication lists are sent on request IBRA also publishes a twice-yearly newsletter on tropical apiculture which is sent free-of-charge to people in developing countries who are interested in beekeening. For those seeking a more comprehensive guide the following book can be recommended: ''The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Beekeeping''. ed Roger Morse and Ted Hooper (1985). Alphabooks, Sherborne, UK ISBN: 0-906670-055. Available from IBRA at £18 70 includinq postage ''A Beekeeping Guide'' by H Attfield (price $7 00). published by SKAT, Switzer and CETAl in Chile Special issue of the Volontaires du Pro gres magazine on beekeeping (issue no: 36). Available from AFVP, BP 2. 91310 Montlhery. France Out soon: ''Le point sur l'apiculture'' by the agricultural department of GRET, 213 rue Lafayette, 75010 Paris, France