The role bees play as pollinators is essential for crop production. To produce honey, bees visit over 5,000 flowers in a day in search of pollen, a seemingly mundane routine that pollinates our food crops. This is a lot of work considering that in its lifetime, an individual bee produces just one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey.
Forests, wetlands, and farmlands are key habitats that make up the ecosystem necessary for the survival of bees. These resources are being exploited in ways that have endangered bees. According to a report, in the last 35 years, Uganda lost 50% of its forest cover. The continued plundering of forests and wetlands, the use of chemicals for farming are likely to lead to the extinction of bees.
According to the 2018 Annual Agriculture Survey, an estimated 7.4 million Ugandans are engaged in agriculture. Considering that 35% of the global farmable land is directly impacted by pollinators including bees, the demise of bees will spell a disaster for the smallholder farmers and their livelihoods.
Swisscontact is a leading organization in the implementation of international development projects to promote inclusive economic, social and ecological development to make an effective contribution towards sustainable and widespread prosperity in developing and emerging economies.
In Uganda, Swisscontact has implemented sustainable agriculture projects for over a decade with a specific focus on beekeeping. As a result, over 14 billion Uganda shillings (CHF 3,722,609) in annual income increase were realized by 16,735 (4,435 women) smallholder beekeepers.
As we commemorate World Bee Day and reflect on how to save the bees, we share 3 key lessons based on a decade of experience working with smallholder beekeepers and deliberate on how they can contribute to the effort to save bees.
In Kyankwanzi, Ntwetwe Area Beekeepers Cooperative society, with support from Swisscontact, was granted access to 500 acres of land for setting up apiaries by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the National Forestry Association (NFA). Such efforts if replicated among communities living near protected habitats will sustainably preserve habitats for bees.
The use of chemicals on farms is detrimental to bees. Therefore, integration of good ‘inorganic’ agricultural practices among farmers and beekeepers alike will reduce over-dependence and indiscriminate use of chemicals on farms.
The majority of beekeepers are first and foremost crop farmers. With the right incentives, all smallholder farmers (especially women) can potentially become beekeepers. However, creating a critical mass that will be beneficial for bees will require supporting the entire beekeeping value chain with special attention to production and marketing.
So next time you have a candlelit dinner while sipping tea sweetened with honey take time to consider how you can lend a helping hand to bees.
Swisscontact is currently implementing a 4-year sustainable agriculture project to increase income and improve livelihoods for 3,556 targeted smallholder beekeepers and also increasing access to improved knowledge and skills in production for 4,400 indirect smallholder beekeepers. The project is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-financed by SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA).