CLIVE SIACHIYAKO, Lusaka
SUSTAINABLE Development Goals (SDGs) call for action to alleviate poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The SDGs are Zambia’s inclusive agenda not to leave anyone behind. But when it comes to rural areas, poverty alleviation is more challenging as these areas are often excluded from socio-economic undertakings that benefit urbanites.
Alive to the challenges of rural areas, Mufumbwe Youth Resource Centre in Mufumbwe district applied for funding under the Skills Development Fund (SDF) under the Ministry of Higher Education to train rural people in beekeeping and value addition to raw materials from honey in Yamakwakwa area. The Skills Development Fund embraces training programmes seeking to enhance the attainment of SDGs and developing other green skills, knowledge and creating an appreciative attitude towards the environment and possibly lead to conservation actions of the forests and other natural resources.
The beekeeping programme was done down in a rural area where beneficiaries of the training lived. Mobile training rarely happens and people who left the school system and feared that the school system had no space for them find it much easier to fit in the learning taken to their familiar environments. Mufumbwe has large forests that are a valuable source for beekeeping with easy.
“You do not need capital in beekeeping. Capital is a person having the skill to do the right thing to make beehives, attract bees, manage the bees, harvest the honey, process it and retain the bees,” explained Mufumbwe Youth Resource Centre training manager, Rogers Mweemba.
“Having a skill is more important in beekeeping. Other things follow later. As it can be seen here, these people did not invest anything but they have so many beehives in different apiaries. They learnt how to make the hives, siting or identifying where to put the hives, how to attract bees to the hives, honey harvesting, and retaining bees and other insights in beekeeping. Some people grew up in these forests and easily relate to beekeeping. Giving them a skill on contemporary trends of managing bees and what they can produce out of honey and honeycombs enables them to get into keeping and making bee products instantly,” added Mr Mweemba.
The centre taught learners how to make bee apiaries using both traditional and modern methods to enable them to utilise available materials for keeping bees after training. At the end of the training, learners formed Kajibwe Bee Cooperative for sharing experiences and increasing honey production. Amongst the members, some had made and placed 200 apiaries while others had 30. They opted to put efforts together to meet demand for honey in the area and beyond Mufumbwe.
However, Mr Mweemba cautioned that although bark hives [made of tree bark] were cheap; making beehives from tree-barks destroyed trees. It also made honey harvesting difficult as some of it got mixed with larvae when bees are kept in tree-bark hives. Modern bee hives help improve honey production and harvesting.
Mr Mweemba further explained that modern bee hives allow easy monitoring of quality of honey, harvesting and honeycomb quality. However, teaching rural people in both provided them with options in case they do not have access to materials for making modern ones. The modern beehives can be made from different materials like polymeric or light metallic materials. Although wooden ones also result into cutting trees to make them, if a culture of planting trees is inculcated into people, it will sustain the forests.
Elaborating on benefits of beekeeping, Mr Mweemba said propolis [bee resin], honeycomb and honey itself are a source of income for beekeepers. He said when people learn about benefits from bees, they tend to appreciate preserving forests that support the existence of bees and provide materials for producing honey and other by-products. Conservation principles are thus imparted to them. He added that Mufumbwe receives visitors asking for honey, and looking at diabetic problems people face, “we thought a programme in beekeeping could increase honey production.”
Yamakwakwa area, where the training was done, has abundant forest and people have been keeping bees most of their lives and “we needed to enhance beekeeping practices in line with modern honey keeping requirements. The skill will help them increase their income levels and honey production targets for the nation. It does not require financial capital as human beings trained in beekeeping are capital.
Mr Mweemba explained that “honeycomb can be boiled to melt to make wax, shoe polish, soap or candles while propolis (bee resin) has curable properties of antibiotics. On the other hand, the venom in bees can be used for fertility among men and women.”
Value addition is a critical aspect in increasing value from raw materials, and beekeeping has the potential to grow and feed into large industries through business linkages workable by auxiliary government institutions.
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CLIVE SIACHIYAKO, Lusaka