Bees are flying insects popular for their role in the production of honey. While most people seem to think that honey is the only valuable product from beekeeping, but bees produce up to six different high-demand products.
The products are: Honey, bee wax, propolis, royal jelly, bee venom and pollen.
Bees products are used in various foods and in several industries including medicine, food processing, industrial manufacturing and natural healing.
They say that bees are naturally attracted to flowers because of a sweet substance called nectar that they like to feed on, and as a result, produce honey and several other products.
In addition, bees are extremely important in the pollination of plants.
This means that without bees, most plants would hardly be able to produce any fruit.
For thousands of years, honey, beewax and other products were harvested from wild bees using very crude and unsustainable techniques.
However, beekeeping or apiculture has become a popular modern practice for commercial farmers and hobbyists, who manage bee colonies in order to harvest their honey and other products.
Unfortunately, stakeholders in apiculture express concern that the sector seems to be receiving less attention in spite of its importance in the transformation of agriculture, preservation of the environment and the improvement of livelihood.
No doubt, apiculture and bees in particular are relevant to food and nutrition security as a sector responsible for the pollination of crops.
Stakeholders that gathered recently in Abuja to dialogue on how to boost apiculture also harped on the need to promote beekeeping.
They spoke at a summit with the theme: “Exploring the Potential of Apiculture in Nigeria,’’ organised by Youth for Apiculture Initiative, and The Rural Environmental Empowerment Initiative.
According to Mr Ernest Aubee, the Head of Agriculture Division, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), “the price tag of global crops directly dependent on pollinators is estimated to be between $235-577 billion a year’’.
Aubee added that the volume of agricultural production dependent on pollinators has increased by 300 per cent in the last 50 years.
While expressing dismay that the apiculture value chain is not well developed in Africa, Aubee stressed the need to upscale youth participation as he described it as crucial in wealth creation and food security.
He pointed out that fields such as apiculture and aquaculture should be included in the agriculture science curriculum of schools with start-up capital provided for youths who are interested.
According to him, youths should embrace apiculture with seriousness and passion. The rewards in this sector are numerous and can transform you to become entrepreneurs and employers of labour.
“It will help to reduce unemployment and grow the Nigerian economy, the opportunities for trade in apiculture products and by-products are enormous at the national, regional and global levels.
“The youths must seize this opportunity available. With limited investments one can be self-employed,’’ Aubee said.
Yusuf Adeyemo, Executive Director, Youth for Apiculture Initiative, a non-governmental organisation said that the inability to fully tap into this sub-sector of the nation’s agriculture has placed a huge financial burden on the Nigerian economy.
According to Adeyemo, Nigerian households spend over $30 million annually on imported honey and beehive products, which the country has the manpower, land mass and vegetation to produce for domestic and industrial consumption as well as for export.
“The conservative projection is that 10 million Nigerian households consume an average of a litre of honey annually, half of which is imported in addition to other bee products such as pollen, wax, propolis and royal jelly.
Similarly, Sola Kolawole, Executive Director, The Rural Environmental Empowerment Initiative, an NGO, emphasised the need for government at all levels to put the apiculture sector at the fore of food security and environmental conservation agenda.
“Bees pollinate over 80 per cent of the crops we eat and their pollination activities increase crop yield significantly thereby boosting food production,’’ Kolawole said.
He, however, expressed worry that the continuous neglect and isolation of the apiculture sector in Nigeria will make it difficult if not impossible for the country to achieve her food security target in record time.
Kolawole tasked the federal and state governments to be resolute in their bid to support apiculture by establishing and allocating forest reserves and conservation zones for apiculture activities to boost farm crop yield.
On his part, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Nanono, urged youths to harness the potential in beekeeping farming, noting that it has great investment opportunities.
“I implore you to explore and bring up the best potential of the apiculture industry for the growth of the nation’s economy and wellbeing of Nigerians.
“This is really a great development for our youths who are embracing diverse areas of agriculture.
“Apiculture as you know is an area still largely untapped in Nigeria.
“The very many opportunities within the honey bee value chain provide employment, means of livelihood, wealth and high nutrition to the teeming populace.
“This has great investment opportunities now and in the future,’’ the minister said.
He added that the value chain of bee keeping was also a vast area to be tapped by Nigerian youths.
“These products are useful in pharmaceutical, confectioneries, beverages, medicine and cosmetic industries.
“It is necessary to take advantage of these strings of profitable aspects of bee production, processing and marketing.
“And I will like to let you know that the ministry is supporting the honey bee value chain in its programmes,’’ he said.
Sen. Bima Enagi, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, said “we cannot in any way underestimate the strategic role pollinators play in the process of food production.
“However, the average Nigerian is aware that bees produce honey, but they don’t even care about the circle of production and the challenges these bees face in an attempt to secure our food and increase yield.
“Since I came into contact with bee keepers, I have been looking at possible ways to intervene and support apiculture.
“My team had worked assiduously over the last few months to understudy the sector and proffer possible legislative interventions that can change the narrative, empower beekeepers, protect forests and parklands as well as water bodies to support beekeeping,’’ Enagi said
Miss Blessing Asapu, a beekeeper advocated increased awareness campaign in order to educate Nigerians to understand that beekeeping goes beyond honey.
“There are other things like propolis, bee wax used for cosmetics and perfume.
“If youths embrace beekeeping, Nigeria will be an exporter of this commodity. But unfortunately they are scared to do so because bees sting,’’ Asapu said.
Another beekeeper, Mr Bolowaji Durogbola, urged policy makers to come up with favourable policies that would promote beekeeping in the country. (NANFeatures)