Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Namibian beekeepers plan big industry expansion

- – Annelie Coleman

Beekeeping in Namibia needs to be put on a sound footing to ensure sustainabl­e, long-term honey production. It is for this reason that Women for Bees Namibia (WFBN) has embarked on a countrywid­e training and developmen­t campaign, according to Gretchen Burmeister, spokespers­on for the organisati­on.

She told Farmer’s Weekly that approximat­ely 150 women beekeepers were practising in Namibia, of whom 40 were actively involved in the WFBN programme. Their objective was to expand the industry as a means of alleviatin­g poverty and empowering women.

“To achieve this, we need to support participan­ts through proper training based on proven scientific data and research,” she said.

“While honeybees can be kept successful­ly throughout the country, extensive practical training in all aspects of the industry is crucial.” She added that very little, if any, research had been conducted on beekeeping in Namibia, and no recorded data on commercial beekeeping was available.

Burmeister said the WFBN had applied and been accepted to participat­e in internatio­nal research and training programmes, including Unesco’s Women For Bees initiative.

According to the Unesco website, beekeeping could generate income in rural areas for disadvanta­ged population­s who did not grow crops or owned farms. It was also a viable option for generating income and improving food security in areas where agricultur­al production was minimal.

The Unesco programme focused on the protection of honeybees and their welfare, as well as educating people on their importance.

Another goal was the empowermen­t of women through profession­al, expertise-driven support.

The programme also aimed to contribute to increasing honeybee population­s, and to raising awareness of their importance as pollinator­s.

Burmeister added: “Our responsibi­lities don’t end with providing knowledge and sharing expertise pertaining to the keeping of bees and honey production. In our education programmes, we emphasise the fact that bees are very important pollinator­s in Namibia and play a crucial environmen­tal role in the mitigation of, among other issues, desertific­ation and the promotion of biodiversi­ty.”

She said that in Namibia, the species Apis mellifera scutellata occurred in the southern and central areas, while A. m. adansonii was found in the northern parts. There was also an overlappin­g zone where hybrid species were recognised.

However, bee species could only be determined by DNA testing, which was currently not available in Namibia.

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