In many countries in the world the most natural and undisturbed environments are those which are within protected areas such as national parks, wildlife parks, forest reserves and nature reserves. These are excellent environments for bees, as they provide a wide range of suitable forage, nesting sites and are unpolluted. In countries unaffected by introduced bee diseases wild bee populations are often high in these protected areas.
However, the concept of setting aside conservation areas is relatively new and most designations have taken place in the last 100 years, usually less. Prior to this, these rich natural environments were also home to people who will have derived benefits from bees through honey hunting and traditional beekeeping. In some situations as parks have been created people have been evicted and re-settled outside the new protected areas. Honey hunting and beekeeping within the reserves were often banned, therefore depriving people of honey and other bee products.
Examples of where this has occured include Mt Elgon Forest in Uganda, Nyika National Park in Malawi and Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda. In some cases the prohibition of beekeeping and honey hunting in protected areas is part of national policy. For example, no beekeeping was permitted in all forest reserves in Malawi for many decades.
Beginining in the 1990s new approaches to conservation emerged - based around community participation and community benefit. Many of the ideas revolved around the idea of allowing local people access to protected areas in order for them to find ways of supplementing their poor livelihoods - provided the activities were compatible with nature conservation. Beekeeping was often considered as suitable. It was further considered that local people would be motivated to participate in conservation, if they could derive tangible benefits from doing so.
Throughout the last decade there have been many, many beekeeping projects within or close to protected areas. These projects have helped and supported local communities to keep bees, in order to earn income, and access to the protected areas was allowed for this purpose. Earning income from beekeeping means local people may abandon more destructive activities, such as charcoal burning or bushmeat hunting, and may also become committed conservationists - in recognition that protected environments are good for bees.
Sadly, in some protected areas beekeeping remains forbidden.
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