SERIOUS engagement in beekeeping has now started to receive positive response as experts in the sector, economists and other stakeholders see the relevance of the commitment. The Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda, a bee keeper himself, is ardent advocate of beekeeping.
Dr Ernest Ombella, an economist with College of Business in Dar es Salaam says youths and the community in general should be encouraged to do away with misconceptions that beekeeping is an outdated practice meant for the elderly.
"Beekeeping is an enterprise with minimal risks, low input demands but with high output for reliable income. But many people still think that beekeeping is primitivism," Ombella said. Rodgers Kamala, a researcher and campaigner in beekeeping says in the past people just went to the bush and collected honey for family consumption or for medicinal purposes.
"It is time for communities to understand that sustainable production of honey is equal to engagement in unexhausted 'gold mine' which is extremely friendly to the environment," Kamala explained. He added;
"I have conducted research in different parts of the country and discovered that nearly all regions are favourable for beekeeping and members of the community are responding positively to any training offered," he elaborated. He says bees play a significant role in cross pollination. They collect nectar from flowering vegetations and pollinate plants in the process for the best yield.
But Hamdani Sanimbu (56), a resident of Kibululu in Mkuranga district, Coast region, says people are interested in beekeeping but swarms of bees are no longer seen as was the situation in the past. "In the last 20 years I have noticed that horde of bees are no longer sighted hanging on trees looking for hives or wood caverns (fissure) to settle and produce honey.
One of my neighbours tried to hang locally made beehives but the bees stayed briefly and disappeared," Sanimbu observed. However, Head of Extension and Publicity of the Tanzania Forest Services in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Charles Ng'atigwa says swarms of bees are readily available only that some of the basic steps need to be observed for positive results.
"Human activities such as deforestation, application of chemicals during fumigation or destruction of water sources create unfavourable condition for bees. Some of the traditional beehives were prone to interruption and bees would not settle," Ng'atigwa exaplained. He explained that the ministry has deployed experts in collaboration with District Councils to teach communities on modern beekeeping.
Seven beekeeping zones have been identified countrywide. These are in Kibaha in Coat region, Same (Kilimanjaro), Tabora, Mwanza, Songea, Dodoma and Nachingwea. "Apart from serving as pilot projects, the centres also cater for training and information dissemination stations.
People learn about modern methods in beekeeping and the lessons are gradually sinking in people's minds as response has been overwhelming," Mr Ng'atigwa clarified Ms Frida Mushi who is also bee keeping expert from the Tanzania Forest Services outlined five 'enemies' of bees. These include fire, water, noise, insects (ants) and strong winds swaying off beehives.
"Bees can travel between three and five kilometers in search for raw materials to make honey. But any kind of disturbance must be avoided. Traditional hives, therefore, need to be improved to comply with the conditions that keep away the 'enemies'. It is estimated that Tanzania's potential for honey production is more than 300,000 tonnes annually against the current production of 9,000 tonnes of honey that is currently produced annually.
On March 6, this year, the Prime Minister directed government leaders to help raise awareness and sensitize youths on the need to take up beekeeping as an alternative means to fight poverty. He issued the directives in Singida at the occasion to mark the National Day for Bee-Hive Hanging held at Aghondi village, Manyoni district.
The premier urged the community to make additional step in beekeeping on top of peasantry, small scale fishing and livestock keeping. Available information indicate that beekeeping in Africa dates way back almost 5000 years when beehives were first used for producing honey in ancient Egypt.
The passage of time has seen the spread of beekeeping from Egypt to the Middle East, throughout the Mediterranean and south into tropical Africa. But in Africa, very few changes have been seen in these ancient beekeeping methods. Traditional hives are made of wood or clay, as in Egypt, and they have a cylindrical shape with a hole at the front which allows the bees to fly in and out and a detachable section at the back which is used for harvesting honeycombs.