THE beekeeping industry in the country is underperforming despite the fact that the industry can play a big role in social-economic gains and environmental conservation.
It is a source of food, a raw material for candles, medicine and provides an income for beekeepers and other stakeholders in general.
Its high turnover coupled with the small start-up capital needs propelled Singita Grumeti Reserves (SGR) to embark on a beekeeping project to empower communities in Serengeti district, Mara region.
SGR has distributed over 350 bee hives to beekeeping projects in communities in the district and is already gaining momentum. Community Outreach Programme Coordinator Mr Richard Ndaskoi said beekeeping is a lucrative business. He was briefing the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, who was in the region to see community development projects being implemented by SGR.
He explained that honey sells like hot cakes with one litre of honey going for 10,000/- . Many customers are guests at the lodges. He said training on bee keeping education is provided at an institute established in the area that takes in secondary students on weekly short courses on environment and conservation. In the classroom students are taught conservation of the environment.
There is a small modern beehive made of wood and glass and full of bees, for practical beekeeping lessons. "Villagers have ready markets from visitors who are willing to buy the honey for 10,000/- per litre. The project helps conserve the environment with the doing away of bushfires, which are not only a threat to the environment, but also to wild animals. Villagers no longer set bushfire because of fear of burning the beehives," he explained.
He said beekeeping project is expanding rapidly among communities in the district, making it popular because of being a source of income, that does not need a lot of start up capital. The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, stressed that beekeeping business venture has not been taken seriously by majority of the population, despite the fact that it does not require a huge start-up capital.
Ambassador Kagasheki agreed that his ministry has not put a lot of effort in promoting bee keeping even though it is easy to start and operate, and the huge market for honey available within and outside the country. "The Prime Minister is also in the beekeeping business and he has put a lot of effort in promoting the industry, but I must confess, we still have a lot to do, to ensure the public really understand that it is the easiest and cheapest business venture to establish, which has huge returns," he explained.
According to statistics given sometimes back by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, Tanzania can produce 135,000 tonnes of honey per year and earn Sh. 1.8 trillions against the current production of 9,000 tonnes of honey per year which earns the country Sh. 27 billion, and produces 600 tonnes of beeswax that earns the nation Sh. 3 billion per year". The current low production levels are a result of using traditional methods that account for 99 per cent of the total production of honey and beeswax.
During around the time of independence in the country the volumes of bee products were higher than now. Today export has declined to insignificant level despite its high potential. Mr Pinda was also quoted telling members of the business community, cabinet ministers and other officials who toured his farm located at Zuzu, which boasts more than 1,000 beehives, that products from bees are on the decline, partly because people living near forests and other places where bees live do not realize that beekeeping can change their social and economic conditions for the better.
He said prices of products from bees are higher than those for motor fuel such as petrol. For instance, a litre of class A-1 honey is sold for between 10,000 and15,000/- in Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and other metropolises, compared to 2,000/- for as litre of petrol! "Such high quality honey is in great demand outside the country, including in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi next door," he explained.
According to a report titled 'Tanzania Honey Trade: Domestic and International Markets,' beekeeping in Tanzania was an important source of beeswax during the colonial period. Production of beeswax in the country increased from 320 tonnes in 1906 to 905 tonnes in 1952. Honey production is estimated averaging 10,000 tonnes during the same period -- and all of which was consumed locally.
Following independence in 1961, Tanzanians exports averaged 368 tonnes of beeswax and 467 tonnes of honey a year. During the 1996/97 period, the annual exports dropped to 359 tonnes of beeswax and 2.46 tonnes of honey! The Government developed a National Beekeeping Policy (NBP) in 1998, with the aim to enhance contribution of the beekeeping sub-sector to sustainable development of the economy, as well as the conservation and management of its natural resources.
The policy encourages active participation of all stakeholders in the establishment and sustainable management of bee reserves and apiaries; promoting beekeeping-based industries and products, and promoting sustainable management of beekeeping in cross-sectoral areas for ecosystem conservation and management. It is with this in mind that SGR started a conservation institute that takes in 12 students from different secondary schools in the district to provide them with training on issues of environment, conservation and beekeeping.