Bee-keeping, sustainable forest management
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