This story was submitted by Ernest Musonda of Zambia.
Seven years ago, beekeeping was not heard of in our district. With the coming of a governemnt/IFAD sponsored programme known as The Forest Resource Management Project, the prospects of real incomes from beekepeing activities were raised. Farmers were trained over a period of five years from 2002 - 2007 in beekeeping and sustainable utilization of forest resource. Over one thousand farmers were trained in basic beekeeping techniques. From zero in 2000/2001, production of honey in the district jumped to over 1.5 tonnes in 2004/2005 season. Production increased to just over 2 tonnes in 2007.
However, there have been many challenges along the way, rampant fires late in the dry season, poor handling of bee products, especially honey, during processing resulting in compromised quality among others. Arising from the above factors, Honey for Life was formed and registered with the registrar of companies as a commercial entity dealing in bee products while championing issues related to environmental degradation in the light of the escalated levels of deforestation. Honey for Life is heavily involved in building capacities at local level in terms of beekeeping, resource use and income generating activities based on the utilization of natural resources. Honey for Life has had numerous challenges along the way.
Some of these challenges border on traditional practices like the belief that forest burning can only can done late in the dry season to control wild vegetation and this can only be ordered by traditional leadership, the chiefs and village headpersons. This is so entrenched that training farmers about early burning techniques to avoid damage by late fires to the natural vegetation, is almost meaningless. However strides have been made by sensitizing the traditional leadership on the importance of early burning. Other challenges have had to do with limited capacity in terms of resources and knowledge on the important subject matters of beekeeping and conservation of natural resources particularly the forests.
There is also a growing complacency on the part of those farmers trained through the governemnt programmes. Over the past two years, the number of practicing beekeepers have fallen due to the a number of factors. Honey for Life and other stakeholders are stepping up their efforts to ensure rural populations benefit economically from their own natural resources in their localities, while ensuring that there is sustainability. There is definitely need for increased efforts in these areas.