Bee keeping is an economically and environmentally sustainable business. Not only is it profitable, but it also protects people, animals, plants and the bees themselves.
HOW BEES BENEFIT PEOPLE
Beeswax (used for cosmetics) and honey (used for food) are profitable trades. The value of the honey trade is estimated to be over $600 million. Many farms across Africa, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, are being set up to meet this demand. There are several benefits to setting up a bee farm:
- It’s relatively easy! African killer bees are native to sub-Saharan Africa so buying them is cost effective because they do not need to be imported. Also, bee farming does not require large amounts of capital or land to get started.
- It increases local employment. For example, Kenyan bee farming attracts about 70% of youth looking for new work.
- Modern bee farming does not require traditional harvesting methods like climbing trees to get honeycomb from live hives. It is much less dangerous and is therefore an accessible trade for less physically able people.
- Bees have been known to settle in hives hidden in the ceilings of farm buildings. These can get so heavy that they cave in the ceilings. Farming these bees would mean that they do not form new hives in unwanted and unsafe places.
HOW BEES CAN HELP PROTECT WILDLIFE
Honeybees can be used near villages and towns to deter threatening animals away from them.
Elephants, for example, have a great sense smell and hearing and will avoid bees as soon as they sense them. They also make a special type of rumbling sound to warn other elephants away from the area.
The Elephants and Bees Project has used this deterrent system by setting up bee farms near areas where humans and elephants might come into conflict with one another.
HOW BEES CAN HELP PROTECT PLANTS
Bees also ward elephants off from protected tree species in nature reserves. Hesron Nzumi, a community leader in Kenya, said that he was ready ‘to give up growing here because of elephants’. The elephants would ‘come and destroy everything’. 17,000 elephants have been culled in South Africa’s Krugar National Park. This is partly to control numbers but also partly to protect vegetation. This vegetation could have been protected using bees instead of culling the animals. This is another benefit of setting up a bee farm.
Finally, bees are also crucial for agriculture and wildlife, as they are responsible for pollination, a process necessary for the fertilisation and growth of plants. They pollinate roughly 35% of all food crops eaten by people around the world, but bees are also sustaining vegetation eaten by animals.
FIND OUT MORE
There are clearly many benefits to setting up a bee farm, and it is worth seeking further guidance about how to set one up if any of the above reasons apply. Click this link to download the Bees and Elephants Project’s beehive fence construction manual.