Bee-keeping, sustainable for­est man­age­ment

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Forestry Commission / People - Bees gen­er­ally are very im­por­tant in all as­pects of life.

BEE-keeping, also known as “api­cul­ture” is the art, busi­ness and sci­ence of rear­ing hon­ey­bees for pro­duc­tion of honey and its valu­able by-prod­ucts.

For the Forestry Com­mis­sion, it has be­come a prac­ti­cal tool for rais­ing aware­ness in com­mu­ni­ties on the im­por­tance of forests and en­gages them in con­scious pro­tec­tion, con­ser­va­tion and sustainable for­est re­source man­age­ment.

◆ In the en­vi­ron­ment, they play an im­por­tant role in pol­li­na­tion, as they are the ma­jor pol­li­na­tors of most of the tree species, veg­eta­bles and crops, thus con­tribut­ing to the sus­te­nance of flo­ral di­ver­sity and good in crop yields in the farm­ing sec­tor by strongly in­flu­enc­ing eco­log­i­cal re­la­tion­ships, ecosys­tem con­ser­va­tion and sta­bil­ity thereby pro­mot­ing ge­netic vari­a­tion in the plant com­mu­nity. ◆ Pol­li­na­tion leads to seed pro­duc­tion thereby pro­mot­ing the re­growth of nu­mer­ous plant species and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment against soil ero­sion. ◆ Bee-keeping has proved to be an ideal liveli­hood en­hance­ment op­tion, which has the pos­i­tive ef­fect of pro­vid­ing an in­come stream for com­mu­ni­ties in both ur­ban and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties through sale of honey and its by-prod­ucts like beeswax, propo­lis and royal jelly. ◆ Forests on the other hand pro­vide ex­cel­lent re­sources for bees and bee-keeping, and bees are a cru­cial part of the for­est ecosys­tems. ◆ Flow­er­ing plants and bees have a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship and are in­ter­de­pen­dent on each other. Trees and other flow­er­ing plants pro­vide pollen and nec­tar, which are the build­ing blocks for bee food (honey). Plants ben­e­fit from hon­ey­bees in that as the bees col­lect th­ese food build­ing blocks, they trans­fer pollen from one plant to an­other (process of pol­li­na­tion), en­abling plants to re­pro­duce them­selves. ◆ Bee-keeping there­fore be­comes a key strat­egy in for­est con­ser­va­tion as it pro­vides an in­cen­tive for a non-con­sump­tive model of for­est con­ser­va­tion be­cause the prac­tice is only sustainable in the pres­ence of well con­served for­est that pro­vides bee for­age. Forestry Com­mis­sion works with other stake­hold­ers in bee-keeping pro­jects that of­fer sustainable so­lu­tions to tra­di­tional prac­tices of bee-keeping and of­fer a liveli­hood op­tion that is en­vi­ron­men­tal friendly.

To in­cen­tivise the com­mu­nity to­wards for­est con­ser­va­tion, Forestry Com­mis­sion sup­ports the for­est-based en­ter­prise of bee-keeping.

Bee-farmer field schools have been es­tab­lished in many com­mu­ni­ties to train farm­ers in set­ting up api­aries and es­tab­lish a honey value chain.

This mu­tu­ally ben­e­fits the farm­ers (as they de­rive in­come for liveli­hood en­hance­ment through the sale of honey and other bee-keeping prod­ucts) and the for­est con­ser­va­tion agenda (as farm­ers in­ten­sify their ef­forts to pro­tect the for­est from which their bees for­age).

The api­cul­ture train­ing of­fered by the Forestry Com­mis­sion places em­pha­sis on sustainable ways of bee-keeping which en­com­pass the use of mod­ern bee­hives like the Kenyan Top Bar (KTB) and Langstroth hives.

This is a shift from tra­di­tional hives made from tree logs and barks which fu­elled de­for­esta­tion and as­so­ci­ated en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, be­cause mod­ern hives are made from soft­wood tim­ber.

The har­vest­ing tech­niques em­ployed are also pro-con­ser­va­tion as they min­imise the risk of for­est fires which are a threat to bi­o­log­i­cal di­ver­sity

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