Bees are flying insects that look like wasps and ants. They are known for their role in pollination, environmental conservation and in the production of materials that are used to make useful products for food, healthcare, cosmetics, etc. What most people know about bees, and fear the most, is that they sting but there’s more to bees than their stinging capacity. Bees are a very important part of the earth’s existence. So important that the United Nations proclaimed May 20 as World Bee Day after the birthday anniversary of Anton Jansa, the man who pioneered modern beekeeping techniques in his native Slovenia in the 18th century. Anton, born in 1734, was known to admire the way bees work so hard and need little attention.
Apiculture is the term given to the commercial rearing of honey bees for the production of bee products and services. Honey Bee farming should be seriously considered for small-scale integrated farming systems. Two bee species that are domesticated and used in honey bee farming in the tropics include the Apis cerena and the Apis mellifera found all over the world (ADP, 2007). Honey bee farming is a vital contributor to poverty eradication, wealth creation, economic empowerment, environmental conservation and community development, to mention a few. As a business, honey bee farming supports the fulfilment of a good number of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as:
- SDG 1: No poverty. Unlike cattle or poultry farming, honey bee farming requires little or no land and capital as a start-up small-scale venture and it has the capacity to create local livelihoods, enhance local productivity and income generation and consequently, eradicate poverty.
- SDG 2: Zero hunger. Bee products, such as honey, pollen, royal jelly, propolis, bee bread, etc, can be produced into nutritious, functional and affordable food. The products can also be sold for income to obtain food.
- SDG 3: Good health and well-being. Bee products comprise nutritional and medicinal properties that can be processed into food supplements and drug concentrates for overall health and healthy living.
- SDG 5. Gender equality. Honey bee farming can provide opportunities for the inclusion of women along the value chain, from production to distribution activities. It also caters to the economic empowerment of the women through training and capacity building.
- SDG 8. Decent work and economic growth. SDG 8 seeks to promote inclusiveness and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all. With honey bee farming business, there is the local creation of social enterprises, skills acquisition, job creation, community development, etc.
- SDG 11. Sustainable communities. Honey bee farming is one of the most sustainable livelihoods with positive communal impact. The business will reduce unemployment rates and create wealth, not just for the bee farmers but for the entire farming community through ample productivity.
- SDG 12. Responsible consumption and production. Honey bee farming produces zero waste from farming activities and sustainable bee products manufacturing following organic practices.
- SDG 13. Climate action. Honey bee farming supports forest conservation. The pollination effects of bee activities on plants enhance vegetation and crop yield. These positive effects capture greenhouse gas and help to fight the negative effects of climate change.
- SDG 15. Life on lands. SDG15 seeks to protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainable manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. Bees are very important for nature’s conservation and bee farming in the community encourages people to value and preserve the forest and protect forest resources. This, will in turn, protect the environment from destruction and maintain the quality of the environment and biodiversity of pristine areas.
Honey bee farming can lead to the industrialization of the community and consequently, impact the social system through CSR. With such developments in the community, there will be reduction in social vices and better communal harmony. Today, bees are under threat. They face extinction on a large scale globally through habitat loss, especially indiscriminate destruction of forests due to industrialization and urban development; reckless farming activities and methods; rapacious use and abuse of synthetic agro-chemicals; pests and diseases; climate change, etc.
Bee farmers report the theft and destruction of their hives by rampaging bandits and criminals, leading to loss of resources and livelihoods, and depletion of bee colonies. If we are not careful, yield rates of nutritious crops will keep reducing, despite the resources deployed, and eventually resulting in loss of business and jobs and income; poor deployment of effort; poor productivity and decreasing food quality and endemic poverty.
You can do something!
Bees do well in areas where there are natural forests and in farms and gardens with abundant water and flowers. In order to support global efforts to protect and preserve our bees, in view of their importance, we can;
1. Plant food crops and flowers where we live and work and avoid using or abusing synthetic agro-chemicals that will further deplete bee populations.
2. Buy bee products from local businesses that promote sustainable agricultural and manufacturing practices to encourage sustainability.
3. Invest in bee farming business or sponsor a hive for economic empowerment programmes to encourage more bee businesses and vocation.
4. Spread the word. People need to know about the importance of bees to the earth. Join the efforts to raise awareness by sharing information and participating in bee advocacy programmes.
Let’s save our bees. Bee Engaged!!!