By Chinyere Anyanwu [email protected]
Bee farming or apiculture is a hugely untapped sub-sector of agriculture. It is a sector that possesses the potential to generate billions of scarce foreign exchange, lucrative jobs, improve economic status of households, impact the country’s GDP positively, as well as enhance healthy living of consumers, if given the required attention by public and private sector investors.
The inability to fully tap into this sub-sector of the nation’s agriculture, despite its importance to other sectors of the economy, including the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, beverage industries and food production, has placed a huge import burden of over $30 million annually on the country’s forex regime.
According to findings, Nigerian households spend over $30 million annually on imported honey and beehive products, which the country has the manpower, the land mass and vegetation to produce for both 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.
In a publication in the International Journal of Physical and Human Geography, co-authors, Onwubiko N. Dike and Emmanuel Onwuka, categorically stated that, “wealth creation from beekeeping is fully untapped among entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Nigerians are yet to realise the potential of beekeeping and its commercialisation has not been appreciably exploited.
The low investment rate of beekeeping in Nigeria is largely due to the dearth of research work on apicultural management and poor beekeeping awareness of the people. The government has neither initiated programmes to create adequate awareness nor provided enabling environment for beekeeping to thrive.
In a bid to change the narrative and boost honey production in order to enable the country exploit several other benefits of beekeeping, therefore, Nigeria will join other nations of the world in marking the 2021 World Bee Day this May. In a summit themed, “Exploring the Potential of Apiculture in Nigeria”, slated for Abuja from May 20 to 21, Nigerian young beekeepers, under the aegis of the Youth for Apiculture Initiative (YFAI), and in collaboration with an NGO, The Rural Environmental Empowerment Initiative (TREE Initiative), will co-host what they term the largest convergence of young apiculturists in Africa in Abuja for the two-day Nigerian Youth Beekeepers Summit (NYBS).
This event is coming on the heels of the need to put the apiculture sector in Nigeria at the fore of the food security and environmental conservation agenda of government at all levels. The apiculture sector, which is responsible for the pollination of crops, production of honey jand other hives related products has not been given required support to flourish and expand. It has remained largely ignored and un-catered for by government and investors.
The apiculture industry, plays a significant role in the food production process considering that bees pollinate over 80 per cent of the crops produced and their pollination activities increase crop yield significantly thereby boosting food production. Nigeria’s potential in beekeeping is yet to be explored, and this is based on a comparative analysis of the country’s land size and vegetative cover as against that of other African countries like Ethiopia, which today is Africa’s current largest producer of honey and honey products.
Speaking on the summit, a beekeeper, Sola Kolawole, who is also the Executive Director at TREE Initiative and one of the organisers of the summit, noted that, “stakeholders and experts have identified the potential of the beekeeping industry to generate employment, provide sustainable means of livelihood and ease more foreign exchange for development. And this is why we are advocating to strengthen beekeeping as a strategic part of mainstream environmental and agricultural activities.
“Our advocacy seeks an intervention from government that will equally address issues of herbicides, pesticides and insecticide usage and importation; increasing crop yield per hectare and also the inclusion of Nigerian honey and other hives products into the European Union Third Country Listing, which will give our hive products better bargaining strength in the global export market.”
Kolawole added that, “the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, at both the federal and state levels need to be resolute in their bid to establish, map out and allocate forest reserves and conservation zones for apiculture activities to boost farm crop yield; the production of honey and hives products, as well as to support livelihood by generating employment especially for youths and women in rural communities across the country.”
He averred that the continuous neglect and isolation of beekeepers and the apiculture sector in Nigeria will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the country to achieve its food security targets. This, according to him, “is because bees are important in the pollination of crops which results into better and increased crop yields and nutrition.
Nigeria needs to learn from countries that have food security and abundant food reserves as a result of adopting pollination of farms. Globally, it is accepted that pollination is important in the food production system and we ignore it at our own peril. That is why we spend so much to import fruits and food that we can also grow locally.”
For Yusuf Adeyemo, an agriculturist as well as the President of YFAI, there is need for the Federal Government to support and empower young beekeepers by including apiculture in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and other environmental funding intervention that can boost honey production in the country.