Thank you everyone who has taken part in this lively and wide-ranging discussion about bees and bee products.
The importance of bees cannot be understated. In additional to providing honey, their value lies in pollination and ecosystem services, economic value as a source of income and, cultural and religious significance.
We have heard from a number of countries about the range of uses of bee products, including the use of honey in brewing in Kenya, as a medicine or sweetener for traditional medicines, to feeding bee brood to sick bees as medicine. The cost and accessibility of honey was raised in a couple of responses – and, although honey production seems to be available year-round, the general decline and costs of beekeeping has raised the price of honey in some countries.
From a national perspective, there are still a number of countries that do not actively support sustainable beekeeping, or create the right condition for agriculture and apiculture to benefit from each other. Some initiatives were highlighted, such as two World Bank resource projects in Tunisia, which addresses beekeeping as an incoming generating activity. Regional and national initiatives have a critical role to play in sharing knowledge, building capacity and supporting the development of better policies and practices.
A number of responses were hopeful about the future of beekeeping. Bella Gabitashvili from Georgia suggests that the number of farmers interested in beekeeping is increasing, but more technical knowledge is required. Florence Egal in Italy gives an example of how beekeeping can be an optimal coping mechanism and livelihood strategy for displaced people and families who have lost livestock due to famine or conflict.
While pollination was not a direct topic of this discussion there is clearly a need for further discussion on pollination services provided by honeybees. In particular, the challenges bees face in terms of habitat loss, invasive species, pathogens, agro-chemicals and climate change. Lal Manavado from Norway provided us with a succinct summary of some of the approaches needed to address some of these issues.
We hope to follow up on the pollination issues next year. In the meantime, please do join the TECA knowledge base and Beekeeping exchange group to continue the discussion on best practices and technologies in the apiculture sector.