Monday, November 16, 2009

Farming yes, but beekeeping too

We often talk about small-farming as a means of poverty alleviation. In addition to growing grains, an article we found today talks about beekeeping in Zimbabwe being used as a means for generating income.

Zimbabwe was once known as a honey making haven. In recent years however, many of the tress that bees built their hives upon have been chopped down.

From All Africa writer Shingai Jena describes this project to help train beekeepers in Zimbabwe. Jena also spells out the profits that can come from a good harvest of honey.

The idea of beekeeping as a means of alleviating poverty was conceived as way back as 1992 when the country was implementing the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme when Zimbabwe was hit by drought.

In order to overcome effects of the devastating drought, some concerned individuals who included Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development Minister Olivia Muchena founded the Zimbabwe Farmers Development Trust with the view to identify low cost projects of alleviating poverty and agreed on beekeeping.

ZDFT executive director, Tichasiyana Mapondera, said beekeeping was agreed on because of its minimum funding requirements since it uses readily available natural resources such as land, trees and the bees.

At inception, the project targeted small-scale farmers as well as rural communities in and around the Hurungwe district of Mashonaland West province as a pilot project.

To date it has been launched in more than 25 districts in the country.

However, withdrawal of support by the W.K. Kellogg foundation which provided funding for producing modern beekeeping materials has hampered progress as plans were underway to spread the project to other parts of the country.

"We urgently need a US$100 000 cash injection to facilitate further training programmes and remuneration of staff who train and manufacture beekeeping equipment," said Mapondera.

The funding required is small compared to the profits that farmers generate per year from honey production.

With raw honey going for up to US$2 per kilogramme, a small-scale farmer with an average of 100 modern Kenyan top bar hives which produce at least 30 kilogrammes each of raw honey and are harvested four times a year, earns at least US$6 000 per quarter.

In Buhera, there are more than 300 communal farmers involved in beekeeping who, when harvests are good, produce up to 1, 2 tonnes per quarter, which translates into a gross total of income of US$1 million a year.

With such impressive figures, words such as destitute and unemployed would cease to exist in the Zimbabwean vocubulary.

Taking into consideration that workers in the country are earning on average US$150 per month, rural folk would not find any reason to envy their relatives in urban areas who toil the whole month to get paid.

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