Uganda: Beekeeping and tree planting go hand in hand (by Sawa Pius, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Kampala, Uganda)

| November 10, 2008

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A partnership between farmers and a honey processor in western Uganda has created sweet rewards for both – with extra dividends for the surrounding environment.

Forest conservation has become a priority for the people of Kabarole district, on the slopes of Mount Rwenzori. Foliage is required for honey production, so ever since locals started beekeeping, trees and other foliage have taken on a greater value. In 1991, a local honey processing organization began working with farmers. Farmers learned the basics of beekeeping and were supported to plant trees and preserve existing forests.

While much of the country is experiencing deforestation, farmers in Kabarole district have recognized the hazards of cutting down trees without replacing them. The Kabarole Beekeepers Association also works with farmers’ groups to obtain new seedlings.

Justine Kabalodi is a farmer and beekeeper. She prepares nursery beds, which she plants with eucalyptus seeds provided by the beekeepers’ association. When seedlings develop, she sells them to other beekeepers. Ms. Kabalodi also has several acres of mature eucalyptus. She manages the forest stand so that she can sell some as firewood, while keeping the rest for her bees.

In addition to planting eucalyptus, farmers are also encouraged to plant shrubs like Caliandra sentena and foliage such as maize and simsim. These crops provide nectar for the bees, while some also provide food for farmers. Ms. Kabalodi keeps artemisia shrubs, which have anti-malarial properties. She says thee anti-malarial properties add value to honey produced by bees who forage on artemisia.

What was seen as a hobby ten years ago is now appreciated as a business. Some 1,000 Kabarole farmers now practice beekeeping. A farmer can harvest up to 10 litres of honey from a small hive, which earns as much as 240,000 Ugandan shillings (about 140 American dollars or 110 Euros).

The beekeepers’ association offers training to interested farmers, and purchases the honey and beeswax for processing. Adolph Bagonza is the executive director of the association. He says farmers are now able to produce six tonnes of honey during each of the two seasons, from February to May, and again from August to October. The bee products are sold within the district. As the bee business continues to boom, environmental benefits sprout in the form of new trees – proving that forest stands and beehives go hand in hand.Click here to see the notes to broadcasters on farming and beekeeping