Have you ever met anyone that didn’t love the sticky, sweet treat that we call honey? Bees are the only insect that produces any type of food consumed by humans. Nevertheless, bees get an undeservedly bad rap.
Did you know that the world would be a barren landscape without bees, and our food chain would topple? The number of crops that depend on pollinators has tripled in the last fifty years as we humans need more crops to sustain ourselves and our livestock. Bees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating 90% of the food produced. In addition, they produce food products such as royal jelly, pollen and honey, and beeswax and even honey bee venom.
Zambia and beekeeping
Zambia can track its commercial beekeeping enterprises back to the late 1800s when Portuguese traders came looking for sources of beeswax. Today, the honey industry in Zambia showing great promise at bringing fair trade and organic business practices to the world market. The industry produces about 2500 tonnes of honey annually and employs over 30,000 people.
Small scale farmers realise the significant value addition for table honey where retail prices are up to ten times the price that farmers receive. However, the traditional way of farming honey using tree bark is not sustainable on a large scale and further impacts the deforestation of Zambia’s rural areas.
Beekeeping can be an excellent form of job creation, training and income generation for rural communities, and in particular for women. Many rural communities still rely on subsistence farming, and by diversifying into beekeeping, they can increase their revenue opportunities and crop yield through pollination. However, there are several constraints for the industry.
And something that might be new to you, bees can keep elephants out of fields of fruit and vegetables and provide honey to the owners of such small plots. In Livingstone we often have elephants close to the outskirts of our town where small scale farmers operate. Elephants do not like the noise of a swarm of bees and they tend to keep away from places where hives are located. Livingstone’s Conservation and Wildlife Society (CATS) has started a programme of making beehives for peri-urban farmers to help prevent human-animal conflict.
Livingstone honey producers
Companies such as Honey & Hive in Livingstone provide European import markets with access to Zambian produced, organic and sustainably sourced honey. They work together with local communities to train smallholder farmers and empower them with the skills and materials needed to benefit their livelihoods. They have created basic beehives built to last up to twenty years or more and focus on educating rural communities on modern best practices for their safety and increasing their yield.
To further increase their positive environmental impact, Honey & Hive will give a farmer a beehive free of charge if they commit to either planting fifty trees or preserving a hectare of forest. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, including the bees and future generations. The aim is to provide rural farmers with more dependable income sources and limit the reliance on environmentally devastating practices like charcoal burning.
The next time you are at the grocery store, anywhere in the world, look at the label and opt for honey produced in Zambia. You’ll get some sweet sunshine in a bottle, and Zambian farmers will benefit from being included in the global economy. Some honey producers are even using blockchain technology, enabling them to isolate the precise hive that produced your honey jar.
• Honey is made up of 20% water and 80% sugar.
• One honeybee produces only about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey throughout her entire lifetime.
• A queen bee generally lives for two to three years.
• A queen bee can lay an average of 600-800 eggs per day during her lifetime.
• The term honeymoon was coined because of the propensity for newlyweds to consume large amounts of mead in the month after marriage.
• Honey has been found in Egyptian tombs that is thousands of years old and still edible.