‘How honey value chain can create jobs, alleviate poverty’
For post-COVID 19 economic growth in Nigeria, beekeeping and honey production can substantially result in poverty alleviation and job creation in addition to the country being able to export experts in various aspects of beekeeping to other countries, Prof. H. D. Ibrahim, Director-General, Raw Material Research and Development Council (RMRDC), has said.
Beekeeping provides a valuable source of income to a lot of people with relatively little investment around the world. According to available statistics, the world’s beehive stock rose from around 50 million in 1961 to about 98 million in 2019.
Worldwide, production and trade in bee honey offers good opportunities for small-scale beekeepers, as an average bee colony produces 27.2 to 45.4kg of honey yearly. And with increasing interest in natural ingredients, and a growing understanding of the medicinal value and uses of bee products, the demand for these products is expanding.
In the United States of America, about 109,799,366.60kg of honey worth $24,200,000 is produced each year. Australia produces 18,375,000.51kg of honey and exports 5,898,313.08kg worth 900,000 pounds annually while Tanzania also exports about 750,000 pounds worth of honey yearly.
In Nigeria, more than N3 billion honey is imported yearly, as beekeeping as a commercial venture is largely underdeveloped in the country, despite the various advantages of the enterprise until recently.
However, the RMRDC director-general is optimistic that in the next few years, honey production in Nigeria will not only be able to meet local demand, the country will be able to export honey in substantial quantities to other countries, apart from those in West Africa, for generation of foreign exchange. This he hinges on ongoing efforts to deepen honey value chain.
One of the major initiatives of the council to deepen the value chain is the farmer-farmer capacity building programme in collaboration with Winrock International Institute for Agriculture Development, United States of America. The programme was able to create awareness on modern beekeeping techniques for higher productivity through workshops and practical training in areas of hive establishment and colonies management.
RMRDC also collaborated with Mrs Ann Harman, a volunteer from US, to conduct a Farmer-Farmer Training Programme on Queen Bee Rearing Techniques in various parts of the country. And the council collaborated with Professor Conie Louise Falk from the New Mexico University, USA, to conduct a detailed study on honey marketing. The study revealed that manufacturing companies in Nigeria use sugar in place of honey due to scarcity of the commodity.
It also revealed that honey is being smuggled into Nigeria from neighboring countries and that consumers preferred honey to be packaged in small quantities for home use. To consolidate the findings, a survey was also carried out to evaluate consumer preferences in Abuja and parts of the north central states in collaboration with the Winrock International. The survey revealed that consumers in Nigeria prefer yellow, clear honey packed in smaller quantities for affordability.
As a fallout, the council collaborated with World Association of Industrial Technological Research Organisations (WAITRO) to hold a stakeholders’ capacity building programme for improvement of quality of honey bee products in October 2018.
A number of other workshops were also held in collaboration with various collaborators to promote quality improvement in line with global best practices. Among these is the one entitled “Modern Beekeeping: Challenges and Prospects from Honey and other Hive Products” in collaboration with Enugu State Ministry of Human Capital Development and Poverty Reduction (MHCDPR).
To promote increased productivity from the beehives, the Council conducted R&Ds on Rearing of Native Queen Bee for Commercial Beekeeping in Nigeria. This was undertaken at the Centre for Bee Research and Development, Ibadan, Nigeria, to enhance local capacity for production of queen bees.
Likewise, the Council Collaborated with CEBRAD to host the Nigeria Biennial Bee Conference (NIBEECON). This is an event organised by the Centre for Bee Research and Development (CEBRAD) on biennial basis. The objective was to bring together stakeholders in the sector to discuss the potential and proffer solutions to challenges in beekeeping value chain in Nigeria.
The council was honoured at the second edition of the conference with an award for the Best Research & Support Organisation for Beekeeping Development in Nigeria. Sequel to this, a national beekeeping training was organized in Keffi, Nassarawa State, under the auspices of the African Union Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), in collaboration with the Council, FMARD and NEPC.
The council facilitated several meetings between beekeepers which has eventually led to the launching of the Federation of Beekeepers Association of Nigeria (FEBKAN) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. The Council also partnered with Standard Organization of Nigeria and various international collaborators to promote characterization and standardization of Nigerian honey.
This was to ensure compliance with global quality and standards. RMRDC is a member of inter-ministerial committee on Honey Production and Standards. The primary mandate of the committee is to come up with a national roadmap and policy for honey development locally. Furthermore, to improve the quality of bee hive products for export, the Council has continued its effort by collaborating with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi – Kenya and ApiTrade to facilitate the setting up of a satellite station of the African reference laboratory for honey testing in Nigeria.
Currently, the council is also collaborating with FAO in its Action Against Desertification (AAD) of the Great Green Wall (GGW) Project in market study, capacity building and livelihood improvement of selected participating communities of Bauchi, Jigawa and Sokoto States. This is with a view to equipping them with necessary beekeeping skills while addressing desertification.
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