FAO in South Sudan

FAO is is scaling up its efforts to support the development of South Sudan’s honey sector

FAO is advocating for public-private partnerships to scale up support the development of South Sudan’s honey sector.

Advocating for private sector investment

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) invited public and private sector players working in the honey sector to visit Wulu, Lakes State, to meet with local beekeepers and processors as part of ongoing advocacy efforts.

The one-day tour to Wulu on 3 March 2022 included a honey processing demonstration and a peek into the packaging, labeling and marketing process at a small plant. Participants included representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP), the National Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the National Ministry of Environment, private companies and financial institutions.  

On 4 March, FAO also facilitated a workshop exploring potential public-private partnerships. 

FAO is advocating for public-private partnerships to expand access to modernized beekeeping techniques and equipment, build government capacity for quality control and increase market access in a sustainable manner.

Along the honey value chain, there is some informal cross-border trade between South Sudan and its neighbours, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Interest in trade is growing as the security situation improves; however, the sector still faces significant challenges, including limited education on modern beekeeping techniques, limited access to modern beekeeping equipment, limited access to finance, and a general lack of infrastructure, which complicates transportation to and from markets.

South Sudan’s honey has the potential to be especially lucrative because it is considered organic, meeting Codex standards and European regulations, due to low agricultural pesticide use across the country. The potential of the bi-products of beekeeping, such as propolis and wax, remain yet untapped.

Christopher Nzuki, the Chief Executive Officer of The Hive Group, said he found the events useful.

“I feel like I have a much better idea of the challenges in South Sudan,” he said.

He observed that the honey production in Wulu wasn’t yet up to commercial standards; however, he remained interested in investing, including, potentially, by supporting capacity development for beekeepers.

“I need honey,” he said. “And South Sudan has honey.”

Helping beekeepers produce higher quality honey

In the meantime, FAO continued its own development work with beekeepers.

One hundred and fifty beekeepers in the Wau and Jur River counties of Western Bahr El Ghazal State received FAO equipment to help them modernize their operations in February as part of the Sustainable Agriculture for Economic Resiliency (SAFER) project, funded by USAID. The beekeepers are among 210 currently being supported under SAFER and 1 290 who have been supported since 2017.

Most of South Sudan’s beekeepers are unorganised, small-scale collectors who depend on traditional hives and knowledge in collecting, processing and packaging. It’s common to keep bees in bamboo logs and burn out the bees to collect the honey. The honey is usually processed in pots, with the honeycomb mixed in, which compromises the quality of the honey and eliminates the opportunity to process and sell the wax.

The equipment distribution included protective suits and gloves, smokers, honey extractors, brushes, buckets, bottles – and more. With it, South Sudanese beekeepers can sedate the bees to enable honey collection rather than killing them, which means they can harvest honey from the same colony multiple times. Under SAFER, the beekeepers will also learn how to construct hives, called Kenyan Top Bar Hives, which will increase the amount of honey each colony produces.

Raphael Nyamuko, a 32-year-old father of seven, was part of a group of 30 beekeepers that participated in SAFER in Yambio, Western Equatoria, from 2018 to 2021. With FAO support, they increased their production from four jerrycans of honey in 2018 to about 45 in 2021, he said.

“This is the best business,” he said. “It earns more money than crop production and it has fewer labour costs.”