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  • Rashida Kabanda

WORLD BEE DAY 2022: Safeguarding Bees for Sustainable Ecosystems

Millions of beekeepers rely on bees for their livelihood and well-being. Pollination, apitherapy, and apitourism are just a few of the hive products and ecological services that bees provide to people. They can also have a significant economic, cultural, and social impact. Bees, along with wild pollinators, help to maintain biodiversity, ensure the survival and reproduction of many plants, support forest regeneration, promote sustainability and climate change adaptation, and improve the amount and quality of agricultural products. The greatest contribution of bees and other pollinators is the pollination of nearly three-quarters of the plants that produce 90% of the world’s food. A third of the world’s food production depends on bees.

In Uganda, beekeeping employs over 1.2 million people. Aside from honey, the bees generate propolis, beeswax, and bee venom, which are used for cosmetic, medical, and food purposes. These products are primarily manufactured for the domestic market, with a substantial amount of informal export to Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan.

Ugandan beekeepers harvest about 1% of the total 500,000-tonne production potential. Low output is due to a number of causes, including inadequate investment, and a lack of knowledge exchange among small-scale farmers. Northern Uganda, where 60 percent of households possess beehives, has the greatest potential for increasing beekeeping production. Forage seasonality, restricted availability of equipment, and training are all challenges for beekeepers in the region, which are exacerbated by extended droughts and bushfires.

Global climate change and its increasing effects have a significant impact on beekeeping. Rains that were formerly predictable as clockwork are becoming increasingly erratic, resulting in droughts. Crops wither, reducing bee feed, and drought has an influence on the honey output. Additionally, the rising pesticide use on crops near beehives weakens colonies by compromising bee health. While these factors pose significant challenges for the industry, incorporating beekeeping into other agricultural practices, such as agroforestry and the planting of multipurpose/high-value tree species like cashew nut, macadamia, calliandra, avocado, mango, coffee, shea, and others, can be a powerful solution. Adoption and integration of agroecological farming techniques assists in addressing climate change as well as improving yields and earnings. These practices also reduce dependence on off-farm materials. Agroecosystems support the multiplication of bee populations through reduced used of inorganic inputs

The observance of World Bee Day every year on 20th May, therefore, aims to draw the attention of public and political decision-makers to the importance of protecting bees; remind us that we depend on bees and other pollinators, protect bees and other pollinators, which would significantly contribute to solving problems related to the global food supply and eliminate hunger, and halt the further loss of biodiversity and degradation of ecosystems, and thereby contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (2 & 15). World Bee Day 2022 will be celebrated under the theme: “Bee engaged: Build Back Better for Bees”

“The importance of bees has not yet widely been recognized by farmers in Uganda but raising awareness of the impact of beekeeping on agricultural crops could drive down the use of inorganic pesticides and promote the integration of beekeeping. In several of the model beekeeping farms, this integration of several crops with beekeeping has shown to be an effective way of increasing the resilience of agribusiness income to climate change-related uncertainties.”- Anguzu Emmanuel, beekeeper, Arua district

World Bee Day 2022 under the theme: “Bee engaged: Build Back Better for Bees” calls different stakeholders at all levels to act now given the threats to bees. The extinction rates of bees are 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal due to intensive farming practices, land-use change, mono-cropping, pesticides and higher temperatures associated with climate change. This has resulted into close to 35 percent of invertebrate pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, and about 17 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats, face extinction globally (IISD 2022). With this backdrop, nutritious crops, such as fruits, nuts and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet and poor quality of food we grow.

“Bee populations may be at risk, but it’s not too late to make a difference. By practicing agroecology and farming conscientiously and making our homes more bee-friendly- we as small-scale farmers, we are helping to preserve the nation’s food security”- Martin Ebuu, beekeeper, Apac district.

Recognizing the critical role bees play toward small-scale farmers’ sustenance and environmental protection, ESAFF Uganda is promoting the adoption of agroecological practices and the creation of bee-friendly habitats. This is practiced through the different agroecology schools and farmer field school models across the country. Neglected underutilized species are now being domesticated and sustainable practices are used as substitutes for inorganic applications that threaten the life of bees.

Bee engaged: Build Back Better for Bees, therefore calls for cooperation and solidarity with small scale farmers, fisherfolks, and other people living in the rural areas as highlighted in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People working in Rural areas (UNDROP), to counter the threats posed by the COVID-19 pandemic to food security and agricultural livelihoods alongside prioritizing environmental regeneration and pollinator protection.

Call to Action

To small scale farmers.

  1. Adapt agroecological practices that protect the environment and have the capacity of multiplying bee populations.

  2. Plant a diversity of native plants and domestication of Neglected Under Utilized Species (NUS) which flower at different times of the year.

  3. Use organic fertilizers and pesticides in our gardens as highlighted in ESAFF Uganda manual for organic pesticides and fertilizers.

  4. Practice agroforestry, forest-tourism, participate actively in the 50k tree campaign and protecting other natural forests to sustain forest ecosystems.

  5. Diversify crops as much as possible, and/or planting attractive crops around the field and our compounds.

To government.

  1. Strengthen the participation of local communities in decision-making, that of small-scale farmers and indigenous people, who know and respect ecosystems and biodiversity.

  2. Enforce strategic measures i.e increasing investment in apiculture and prioritize and popularize beekeeping in the government development programs such as the Parish Development Model including monetary incentives to help change.

  3. Increase collaborations between small-scale farmers and indigenous people with public entities, academic and research networks to monitor and evaluate pollination services.

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