Why bees, pollinators remain integral to food security

Bees and other pollinators make important contributions to agricultural yields thus making them an integral part of global food security.

Bees play a vital role in ecosystems as pollinators of major crops although their numbers have been falling rapidly due to habitat loss, pollution and pesticides.

Also, with the increasing commercial value of honey, bees are becoming a growing generator of income, livelihood strategy and means of food security for many small-scale producers and forest dwellers in many developing countries.

Nearly 90 per cent of the world’s wild flowering plant species depend entirely on animal pollination along with more than 75 per cent of the world’s food crops and 35 per cent of global agricultural land.

The Assistant Director of Beekeeping Development from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Mr Daniel Pancras said the forestry and beekeeping stakeholders are very important since they contribute 80 per cent of all food crops that were pollinated by bees cultivated in the country and the world in general.

According to the World Food Organization (FAO), 75 per cent of fruits and vegetables would not exist without bees which are important for food security and the world’s biodiversity.

However, the organization says that bees are facing a serious threat from their pollinators, as well as other insects, and even animals like bats and monkeys that can also do pollination.

The Agricultural Officer and Pollination Specialist from FAO, Abram Bicksler, said that the statistics are clear that if measures to control the sources of the threat are not taken, the situation will be even worse shortly considering some parts of America and Europe the number of the bee has decreased.

Mr Bicksler says the various reasons that cause the situation to occur are a combination of human activities, climate change, excessive use of pesticides and also major diseases and insects that affect pollinators.

FAO Director General, Jose Graziano da Silva emphasizes that bees are important, elaborating that more than 75 per cent of food crops depend to some extent on bee pollination.

Mr Silva says the absence of bees and other pollinators will destroy coffee, almonds, apples, tomatoes and coconuts, which are some of the few crops that depend on pollination.

He urges countries to take concrete measures to ensure they protect bees.

Recently, the government in the Katavi region launched guidelines on how to use swarms of bees for pollination of plants and crops in the field which will help farmers and beekeepers to get more benefits than just getting only honey.

Former Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda said the guide will help breeders and farmers to change and see the bee insect as having great value and they suppose to do everything possible and use it properly to increase their income.

Mr Pinda gives an example of the profit obtained by a farmer and a beekeeper who rents his bee colonies to another farmer.

He says a beekeeper can rent beehives to other farmers for a period of one cultivation season where the production of the relevant crop will increase and the beekeeper will pay a pollination fee while doubling his/her production of bee products.

“By realising that bees are the main pollinators that provide food security, other countries have put this sector under the Ministry of Agriculture. Let’s change beekeeping to have food security, but we will also beat many countries in honey production.

“We can produce up to 140,000 tonnes and continue to be rich, the only problem we have is that we are not excited about the opportunity despite the government showing a clear commitment to developing the beekeeping sector,” says Pinda.

On his part the former Director of Forestry and Bees in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Ezekiel Mwakalukwa says the guide is a strategy to help beekeepers starting from the preparation of swarms’ bees, their care while in the field and how to agree.

He says among the aspects that the guideline explains is how to prepare swarm bees for pollination, the management while in the field, and the procedure for returning the swarming bee after pollination to the place where you keep them.

Also safety and first aid in the farm that receives pollination services and issues to consider when planning the rental price of bee colonies.”

Beekeepers say that the guide has come at the right time and clearly shows the government’s commitment to economically liberating beekeepers in the country.

On his part the Tanzania Forest Service Agency (TFS) Chief Executive, Prof Dos Santos Silayo says that if the forests are not taken care of, the bees will be in danger while food security will also be in doubt.

He says that there is a great opportunity in beekeeping, especially in the honey market that Tanzania. He insists that Tanzanian honey is famous for its quality.

In addition, Prof Silayo says the value chain of tourism activities also affects agricultural issues, since a large percentage of agricultural activities are done depending on rain.

“For agriculture, forests absorb rain and in fact, our agriculture is still very dependent on natural conditions. Therefore, when we have our forests, it stimulates the presence of rain for sure in various areas of the country, thus greatly stimulating the growth of agriculture.

“We bear this responsibility to ensure that the forests become safe to help the country run economically and to support the government efforts to ensure the nation’s development is achieved thus agriculture grows, livestock increases productivity water is available and all this is for the forestry sector and conservation as a whole, ” he said.

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