By Prossy Nandudu
Clearing of natural vegetation, coupled with poor use of agrochemicals, are some of the threats to the continuous production of bees because forests act as homes for bees and a hub for other plants needed by the bees.
According to the National Environment Management Authority, Uganda is losing 92,000 hectares of forest cover each year, depriving the honey bees of their natural habitats and forage, yet beekeeping is an important occupation, which provides livelihood to millions of people, in addition to promoting sustainability, improving agriculture, regenerating forests, ensuring survival of many plants and their reproduction, among others.
Other challenges faced by bees include pests and diseases, rain and parasites, in addition to malicious destruction of beehives, inadequate funding for the beekeeping industry, scattered individual producers, among others.
As a result, there is a growing decline in bee pollinations and yields of bee-pollinated crops, such as coffee, low production and productivity of honey and other beehive products, minimal export of honey and other beehive products from Uganda.
For the sustainability of the bee sector, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) is to embark on residue monitoring of products from bees, including honey, to look out for inorganic pesticides and heavy metals said to be in bee products to maintain the quality of bee products for a better market.
This was revealed by Lawrence Tusimomuhangi, the assistant commissioner productive entomology in the agriculture ministry, during an interview on Wednesday.
The initiative will be accompanied with community sensitisation on the dangers of indiscriminate use of chemical pesticides on bees, pollination and income security, as well as on the environment.
At the end of the initiatives, Twinomuhangi said volumes of bee products will increase, hence improving domestic, regional and international markets.
His remarks come at a time when the country is preparing to celebrate the International BEE Day, set for today (May 20th), under the theme “Bee-engaged — Celebrating the diversity of bees and beekeeping systems”.
The celebrations will be held at the National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Namulonge in Wakiso district.
Twinomuhangi added that the celebrations, which will bring together various stakeholders along the bee value chain, will not only be used to discuss solutions that will protect the bees, but also maintain the livelihood of the people who depend on bees as a source of income.
The day was designated by the United Nations to raise awareness on the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.
The day also marks the birth of Anton Janša, a pioneer of modern apiculture or bee farming.
He added that the protection of bees is in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 1 (SDG 1- to end poverty in all its forms everywhere); improving the welfare of Ugandans as espoused in the Vision 2040; National Development Plan III (NDP III); National Resistance Movement (NRM) Manifesto 2021-2026; NRM Resolution on Agriculture and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC); the Agricultural Sector Strategic Plan (ASSP); National Agriculture Policy (NAP); the Parish Development Model (PDM) and other related sector policies and legislations.
According to Twinomuhangi, the ministry’s interventions, coupled with those from the private sector, will lead to the protection and conservation of the lucrative beekeeping industry that has the potential to create employment for the youth, women and people with disabilities, among others.
Information from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics shows that the agriculture sector, which takes care of bees, employs about 70% of the population, accounting for 24% of GDP and half of exports, hence, the need to protect and conserve bee pollinators, whose services can also increase crop yields by over 30%.
Dickson Biryomumaisho, the executive director of the Uganda National Apiculture Development Organisation (TUNADO), said when conserved and protected, the lucrative beekeeping industry has the potential to create employment for the youth, women and people with disabilities to sustain their lives.
Information from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics shows that the agriculture sector, which takes care of bees, employs about 70% of the population, accounting for 24% of GDP and half of exports, hence the need to protect and conserve bee pollinators, whose services can also increase crop yields by over 30%.
Biryomumaisho said protecting bees and the beekeeping industry will combat poverty through the sale of bee products.
He added that honey can be eaten as food, in addition to sustaining the environment through pollination. Potential from Bees According to TUNADO, the estimated honey production potential for Uganda is 500,000 metric tonnes annually and the current production is 24,000 metric tonnes, but only 14,000 metric tonnes, which is about 3% of the full potential of the sector, is presented to the formal market.
From the 14,000 metric tonnes of honey, the country earns at least $38.4m.
However, the international honey deficit stands at 3.6 million metric tonnes annually.
Uganda’s bee products are mainly exported to East African countries, the DR Congo, Sudan, United States of America, Germany, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the European Union.
In addition to honey, other beehive products produced in Uganda and traded annually include; 720 metric tonnes of beeswax, generating about $5.2m, 5,000 litres of propolis tincture, generating $320,000; bee venom and 150,000 litres of honey wine, generating about $900,000 annually.
In terms of employment, TUNADO estimates that over 1.2 million people in Uganda are engaged in beekeeping; producing honey and other beehive products at the primary level.
In addition, there are over 100 farmers’ organisations and private companies dealing in beehive products’ trade.
For the sustainability of the bees, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), in partnership with the private sector in the bee value chain, Sunday (World Bee Day) suggested and discussed solutions that will protect bees and maintain the livelihood of the people who depend on them as a source of income.
The day, celebrated on May 20, was designated by the United Nations to raise awareness on the importance of pollinators, the threats they face and their contribution to sustainable development.
Approaching pollination as a critical indispensable component of modern agriculture for Uganda to gain food security within a threshold period, pollination will no longer be a random activity and will no longer be left to luck or assumption or biotic agents as before.
The bees will be declared as an agricultural input, such as planting materials, fertilisers, pesticides, drugs, among others. Farmers will be encouraged to have beehive colonies at their farms for pollination.
Beekeeping will integrate with the growing of coffee. Mobilisation and sensitisation of more beekeepers, imparting modern beekeeping technologies, encouraging and strengthening beekeeping associations and private value chain companies will increase the volumes and quality of Ugandan honey and other beehive products traded, not only in the domestic market, but also in the regional and international markets.
According to MAAIF, for this year’s celebrations, the focus is on raising public awareness about the threats to bees and possible solutions, as well as highlighting opportunities and the importance of bees in maintaining food and income security.
The day will also be used to highlight the importance of bees to the environmental and biodiversity protection through provision of pollination services.