OVER 1 552 villagers in Mutasa district in Manicaland province have managed to overcome challenges posed by climate change, courtesy of international donors who have made them realise that beekeeping, other than crop farming, was a life changer.
By Phyllis Mbanje
After experiencing perennial crop failures over the past decade due to erratic rainfall patterns, the villagers now view bees as moneymakers, as beekeeping projects have transformed their lives overnight.
The projects, funded by the European Union, are aimed at supporting the integration of agriculture with sustainable forest management and agro-forestry.
This is in an effort to increase and diversify sources of food and income for small-scale farmers, thereby increasing their resilience to shocks and improving food security and food availability in Zimbabwe.
The implementing organisations, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Environment Africa (EA), have been working closely with the community in capacity building and identifying markets from their produce which is in high demand.
The market for the honey is readily available with some buyers coming from as far as Harare.
A kilogramme of Grade A raw honey fetches as much as $2,30, with some villagers claiming that they were now generating an average of $15 000 annually from honey sales.
“Villagers have been empowered financially and can look after their families with ease. This area has not done well in terms of crop production so the bee projects have really been life changing,” chairperson of the beekeepers association, Paddington Nemaunga, said.
The thriving projects have made it possible for most villagers to not only feed their families and send children to school, but even acquire assets like cars and farming equipment.
Beekeeping is fast becoming a lucrative business which is capitalising on the high domestic demand for honey as food and for medicinal purposes.
“Beekeeping is also instrumental in protecting forests. Since the implementation there has been less fires and cutting down of trees,” said EA director Barnabas Mawire during a tour of the projects by the media last week.
According to FAO, trees outside forests contribute to food security through provision of forest foods and incomes and protection of soils and water resources upon which agriculture depends.
Unfortunately these resources are being lost at an alarming rate of 312 000 hectare per year (FRA 2015) due to lack of management, uncontrolled fires, over-exploitation and conversion to extensive agriculture.
Commercial forestry contributes 3% to GDP, but is currently restricted to the private sector yet it has potential to contribute to smallholder livelihoods. Since most of the dry areas that are agriculturally marginal are well endowed with trees and forests, it is imperative to integrate agriculture with sustainable forest management and agro-forestry to improve food security.
“So beekeeping is an incentive to preserve our forests and this has so far been working very well,” Mawire said.